Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Tyrant's Law by Daniel Abraham

I gave glowing reviews to the first two instalments of Daniel Abraham's The Dagger and the Coin series (The Dragon's Path and The King's Blood) so I was really eager to get my hands on the third book in the series The Tyrant's Law.

At 500 pages of a curiously large font The Tyrant's Law is a relatively short epic fantasy volume. Despite the brevity and my interest in the series I found this one hard going.

I should have been prepared, it's a middle book and middle books of epics for some reason seem to drag.

One thing Abraham has resisted, to his credit, is to stop the amount of PoV characters spiralling out of control. The Tyrant's Law follows the stories of former mercenary captain Marcus Wester, the now impoverished, but not powerless noble Clara Kalliam, the widow of the traitor Lord Dawson, clever young banker Cithrin be Sarcour and the sociopathic Lord Regent Geder Palliako.

As is common for epics structured this way each chapter covers events in the character's journey and then moves onto the next character. I enjoyed it in the first two books, but found it frustrating this time as the story would just start to get interesting and gain my attention, then it would end and it was time to pick up another character's story.

The title of the book refers to Palliako's virtual genocide against the insectlike race of the Timzinae. This is driven by Basrahip, a priest of the Spider Goddess, who seems to have a hold on the impressionable Lord Regent. The genocide had echoes of the Holocaust in WW II. Palliako himself remains for the most interesting of the characters. He's obsessive and weak, but has been gifted with enormous power, a dangerous combination. While Palliako is obsessed with Cithrin due to some time they spent together in The King's Blood he also seems to have an undeniable attraction towards Basrahip, and the reader gets the feeling that if Basrahip were removed from the picture Palliako would fall apart.

I found Marcus story the least interesting. It contained a lot of that pointless wandering about that I'm so fond of. The point of that seemed to be so the author could show the reader that he'd created a big world for this. It almost seemed to scream: 'Look at me! Different races and creatures. See this isn't just a real world analogue!' The aim of this seemed to be initially to obtain a magical sword and then to find something that could break the power of the Spider Goddess. At times it had a rather sword and sorcery feel to it, and more than once I found myself calling Marcus, Conan in my head.

Cithrin moved her base of operations from Port Oliva to Suddapal, and used the resources of the bank to put obstacles in Palliako's way and hinder his genocide. She felt an affinity with the Timzinae because her mentor in Suddapal was one and she's part Cinnae, who are related to the Timzinae. Curiously enough despite the proliferation of non human races in the series, Cithrin is the only major character who appears to be anything other than Firstblood.

Clara schemes. Trying to pit the nobles against each other and plant the seeds of doubt in Palliako's mind, she also develops support for her cause amongst the lower classes with small acts of understanding, kindness and charity.

The story slowed considerably from the first two books and I'm not sure why. There didn't seem to be any real need for that. Most of this book was purely unneccesary. I know that middle books exist to get things in place for the finale, but I felt this could have been avoided by making the book on either side larger. It wasn't as bad as Crossroads of Twilight (nothing could be), but it was a near run thing. I do however still really enjoy the series and have confidence that Abraham can get it back on track with Book 4 The Widow's House.

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