The Drawing of the dark by Tim Powers

The Drawing of the Dark

Author – Tim Powers

Pages: 336 pages
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Release Date: June, 1979
ISBN-10: 0345430816
ISBN-13: 978-0345430816

When I first read The Anubis Gates, a novel hailed by many as Powers best, I fell in love with it. I had searched high and low for a copy for months and when it finally landed on my mother’s head (almost literally), I dove right in and almost instantly knew it was worth the search.

Since that time, I’ve hunted down many of Powers’ other work (sadly most of his older work can be hard to find, at least in my part of the world) and have saved each of them for a time when I need something special to read, something to kick my imagination back in gear. The Drawing of the Dark seemed like the perfect companion for the other novels I packed with me on my trip – it takes place in Hungary (which I just left) and Vienna, Austria (where I’m headed), has an Irish protagonist (which, if you couldn’t tell from my name, I have a lot of in my blood), and is about beer (which any decent man has a love affair with).

Unlike Powers’ other works, The Drawing of the Dark is a more standard fair, very akin to the works of other authors writing fantasy at the same time (Terry Brooks, Stephen R. Donaldson, etc…). It has everything that made Epic Fantasy of that period so damn good – big battles, rip-roarin’ magic, a mysterious wizard, hidden legacies – but with that Tim Powers twist.

Powers takes the siege of Vienna, by Suleiman of the Ottoman Empire, but fills in the gaps with so much imagination that one often wonders if, in fact, reality really is more bizzare than any sort of plot thought up by an author. Mixing in a heavy dash of Aurthurian legend, Powers weaves an engaging tale that insures you won’t ever look at beer the same way again!

The tale, however, is not without its flaws. The most glaring of these is the ill conceived love story between Brian Duffy (the Irishman protagonist) and the Guinevereesque, Epiphany. It starts off awkward, stumbles through the novel for reasons I couldn’t quite grasp, and then ends messily and with much less compassion than it deserved, as though Powers wrote himself into a corner and wasn’t quite sure how to end it. Tragic, really.

Powers work, especially The Anubis Gates, is known for its twisting narrative, always leaving the reader on the edge of their seats. Perhaps because The Drawing of the Dark was an early novel by Powers’, the narrative was much more straight forward than I was expecting, though this isn’t exactly a knock against the book. I blew through it in a matter of days and loved every second with it.

Duffy is a likable protagonist – clever, charismatic and just obstinate enough to be believable – but I felt, oddly, that my connection with his character lessened as the novel moved on and certain revelations were made. By the end of the novel I wasn’t even sure who Duffy was, and it felt harder to connect with him and his plight. Perhaps this feeling would have been lightened if the marketer’s of the original 1979 edition of the novel (the edition I was reading) hadn’t seen fit to spoil the novel’s twist on the front cover. Those wily marketers ruin everything, even 30 years ago!

While not Powers’ best novel (that title is still held by The Anubis Gates), The Drawing of the Dark was a fun little ride and it was nice to see where Powers started as an author. Certainly an ambitious novel, The Drawing of the Dark shows all the promise and rough edges of any good early novel, hinting at the greatness that Powers would achieve. If you’re looking to get into Tim Powers’ work, you can’t go wrong starting with The Drawing of the Dark. If you’re already a fan of his work (and you should be), then you can expect another classic Powersesque tale of twisted history.

  • Pat October 20, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    At the top of the review you list the author as Neil Gaiman . Just thought you’d like to know. :)

  • aidan October 21, 2008 at 12:18 pm


    Guess I got too carried away with the cut & paste! Thanks, Pat.

  • […] should be excited for! You can check out my recent review of Powers’ The Drawing of the Dark HERE. digg_skin = […]

  • Greg Adams March 3, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    I was given a copy of this book when I was in my teens, and it has stayed with me ever since. No, it is not perfect, but it does light a candle in my imagination.
    I must disagree with you, though, on Duffy’s fumbling relationship with Epiphany. The book is a tragic tale of a man dying, or at least loosing himself, and his love of Epiphany is just another element of the tragedy. She is the love of his life, but he knows that his life is extinguishing and cares for her too much to promise what he can not give.
    I also believe that we all lose our connection to Duffy as he loses his connection with the world. Love the book, thanks for the review.