Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham

Although Daniel Abraham has also been responsible for the highly regarded Long Price series, a number of Urban Fantasy's under the pen name of MLN Hanover, and the science fiction collaboration Leviathan Wakes with Ty Franck under the name James S.A Corey, The Dragon's Path, the first of his The Dagger and the Coin epic fantasy (I believe it's currently meant to be 5 books) was my first encounter with the author. I have to say I'm impressed.

The Dragon's Path is set in a European inspired landscape where a collection of small countries are about to erupt into a messy war. The back cover blurb proclaims: Summer is the season of war in the Free Cities. The setting has been described as medieval, but I saw it as closer to the Renaissance and the characters made me think of names like Medici and Machiavelli. The book is arranged as a series of stories from single, mostly separate POV's, somewhat in the style of Abraham's friend and mentor George R.R Martin, although the scope of The Dagger and the Coin is from this opening volume, not as grand and sweeping as A Song of Ice and Fire. Each of the POV characters has a significant part to play in shaping the destiny of the Free Cities.

Marcus Wester is a hard bitten mercenary with a legendary name and a past he'd rather forget, he also wants to get out while the getting is still good.

Cithrin Bel Sarcour, a bank raised orphan, has been entrusted with the bank's funds as her mentor can see the storm arriving. Cithrin is about to enter world for which life has not prepared her.

Geder Palliako knows everything he's learned from books, he believes that life is contained between the pages of those volumes. He desperately craves acceptance and respect, he's prepared to earn it the hard way for everyone else.

Pulling all the strings is the Machiavellian Dawson Kalliam. By the book's end readers are probably none the wiser as to what Dawson's true plans are, but we know he's someone you want to watch your back around. His wife Clara shows every sign that she is every bit as devious as her husband and possibly twice as dangerous.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Dragon's Path, so much so that it has become one of my top 5 for 2011. Daniel Abraham has created an interesting and multi layered world. One small quibble were the 13 races he used to people it. They're not all human, humans are generally referred to as First Blood, although there are brief descriptions of the different races, some have large ears, there's one whose eyes burn, one has tusks and another is almost insectoid, readers aren't really given a sense that anything aside from physical appearance marks them as different. They think and act the same as any human, so it makes me wonder if there was any need to really make them different at all. in this instance Abraham could have possibly taken a leaf
out of Mark Charan Newton's book and looked at the way he portrayed the rumels and the garudas in his Legends of the Red Sun series. They interacted and lived with humans, but not only did they look different, they acted accordingly. Daniel Abraham may build on this in future books.

I did love the characters though, especially Cithrin and Marcus. Marcus didn't change a lot throughout the book and his character is one I've seen before, but he had a dry sense of humour and his almost fatherly concern for the naive orphan was touching. Cithrin herself is a delight and she came a long way. She began as a shy, uncertain child thrown into a situation for which she was ill prepared, but once she was off the road and dealing with the world of high finance she blossomed and showed her true worth. Cithrin's wheelings and dealings were some of the highlights for me. Geder is another interesting character who has polarised readers. He starts off as rather pathetic and pitiable, but becomes truly reviled by book's end. I don't think he's actually bad, batshit crazy yes. Unfortunately Dawson's surface and that of his wife Clara were only scratched, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more of her.

I highly recommend The Dragon's Path and the sequel; The King's Blood, due out in May of 2012, is one of my most hotly anticipated 2012 releases.

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