Tim Powers, |
The Drawing of the Dark
(Del Rey, 1979;
Del Rey Impact, 1999)
The Drawing of the Dark first received acclaim as a highly imaginative urban fantasy years before urban fantasy was popular. In order to draw attention to worthy fantasy titles that may possibly have been overlooked by the public, Del Rey recently republished the novel under the Del Rey Impact imprint. Now fans of Tim Powers' recent work can discover his early forays into the legends of the Fisher King.
Brian Duffy, an aging soldier, feels a bit down on his luck in Venice. Growing weary of the exertions of war, he agrees to take a job assignment as bouncer at the Zimmerman Inn in Austria, under the pay of the mysterious (and often absent) Aurelianus. As Duffy travels to Austria, he encounters numerous strange beings, straight out of old legends, and his dreams are haunted by a strange, yet familiar, sword and arm emerging from a shiny lake. Once Duffy reaches Austria, he discovers that his job -- to protect the famous Herzwesten brewery -- is more dangerous than he ever could have imagined. His legendary (more so than even he knows) fighting skills are called upon once more in a battle of such magnitude that its ramifications could destroy the entire Western kingdom. Yet Duffy's concerns are more selfish, as he struggles in a personal battle to simply save himself.
Unfortunately, my knowledge of history is sketchy, so I can't swear that all of Powers' details are accurate. The Drawing of the Dark, steeped as it is in actual historical events, still presents things in a slightly skewed manner -- Powers' own take on the way things happened. These political and historical aspects of the novel create a stunning backdrop against which the drama unfolds.
But it's Powers' ability to create and sustain realistic characters that kept me involved in the novel. I believed in Brian Duffy not just as a fictional character, but as a real person: I sympathized with him, I got angry with him, and I cheered for him. In a book that all too easily could have become plot- or action-oriented, Powers keeps his characters and their conflicts at the center of the story. Powers doesn't shy away from showing his characters at their worst, either, which is what makes them so appealingly human. Despite the worldwide impact of Duffy's choices, it's how they affect him as one person that ultimately matters to the reader.
If you haven't ready anything by Tim Powers, I recommend picking up a copy of The Drawing of the Dark. For those of you who've discovered Powers and his recent work, this novel is one you should add to your collection. If you already own it, grab a copy for a friend and turn them onto Powers.