Sometimes I’m reading a book and won’t be very into it – only to discover that it grows on me after I’ve finished reading it, like some wines only really develop in the aftertaste. Dune was one such book for me, as was The Dragon Waiting.
The Dragon Waiting takes place during the 1480s, in an alternate history world where Rome never fell. Of course, it did move to Byzantium, but that’s hardly the same as falling, is it? Christianity never gained a real foothold, and the Empire, as of the start of the novel, covers the historical area of the Byzantine Empire, much of Italy, most of Germany, and significant parts of ~~France~~ Gaul. And the Empire is constantly expanding, by force and by intrigue. The religious pluralism in the Empire seems to have worked to release tensions and ensure a country of this scope can survive.
All this isn’t told – it’s shown, and you can easily pass up much of it. Thankfully, The Internet happened and there is a website that provides extensive citations and explanations: Draco Concordans
The story follows four POV characters: a Welsh Wizard, a Byzantian noble from Gaul (in hiding), a vampiric German engineer (“Fachritter”), and a Florentine doctor. Surrounding them, we encounter a huge cast of historical figures: Lorenzo de Medici, Ficino, Richard III and all the nobles surrounding him, Owain Glyn Dŵr, Henry VII, … it’s a big cast.
I’m not sure what caused me to feel so distant from the book. Maybe it’s that it often skipped the parts of the story that I’d have wanted to see. Maybe it’s that I concentrated so much on catching all the clues (I only read the concordance once I was done with the book) that the characters seemed like just plot points to me. I enjoyed the book, but in a technical, cerebral way. The further the reading experience is in the past, the more I enjoy looking back on it – I have no doubt that this is a book that is now stuck in my head, and I’m happy to have it.