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Picks and Pans Review: The Eyes of the Dragon

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by Stephen King

Stephen King had a problem. Millions of people devoured his books, but there was one potential reader he failed to capture: Naomi, his daughter. Naomi, 16, had made it clear, he reports, that she had “very little interest in my vampires, ghoulies and slushy crawling things.” So King set out to write a book for his daughter, and the result, if he does say so himself (which he does), “kidnapped her.” Many are likely to be held hostage by this delightful fairy tale, which is dedicated to Naomi and Ben Straub, 10-year-old son of Peter Straub, King’s friend and co-author on The Talisman. Dragon is a gentle fable, related in temperate tones by a knowing narrator and complemented by 21 eye-catching illustrations by David Palladini. The terrain is familiar, populated as it is by fire-breathing dragons, evil wizards and a handsome prince. Yet Dragon is not just a children’s book; how many children’s books mention flaccid penises, as this one does on its third page? Dragon is a fully realized novel, capable of captivating readers of all ages. While it represents a departure for King, it is not completely divorced from the rest of his work. Dragon contains one of his most familiar themes: that evil is cyclical, and while it can be vanquished, it never really vanishes. Other comparisons are more obvious: The evil wizard is named Flagg, recalling the nasty Randall Flagg of 1978’s The Stand. At one point two characters (named Naomi and Ben) feel pursued by a monster, “some horrible It.” One needn’t look further than the current best-seller list to trace that allusion. King’s horror stories usually are set in the here and now. With this compelling tale from another time and genre, King proves he is as versatile as he is prolific. (Viking, $18.95)