The Dragon's Path review

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Dragon's Path is the first novel of a new fantasy series called the Dagger and the Coin by Daniel Abraham. The author already has a nice reputation in fantasy with his Long Price quartet which received very good reviews in general. He's also MLN Hanover when writing urban fantasy and James S.A. Corey when writing sci-fi.  This is my first read of a novel by Abraham and it won't be my last.

Cithrin Bel Sarcour is a ward of the Medean Bank of Vanai.  Having to flee the city with the bank holdings before a new Antean invasion of the free city, she finds herself on a caravan on the long road to Carse.  Guarding the caravan is the legendary Captain Marcus Wester, now a guard for hire.  Back in Antea, Dawson Kalliam, Baron of Osterling Fells is plotting against the other noblemen to help his old friend King Simeon in keeping his position on the throne. And on the road to Vanai, Sir Geder Palliako, heir to the Viscount of Rivenhalm is marching to war in spite of dreaming about his speculative essays translations.

The Dagger and the Coin... really a fitting name for the series. It's not often that economic elements are included in a plot but they sure are important in this one. Don't worry, the author is not trying to drown us in complex mercantile schemes but money is at the heart of everything happening between many of the protagonists. And then, the dagger, representing all the plotting and deceptions. The book feels like traditional fantasy but it's not a pure good vs evil fantasy. Anyway, let's say it's a patchwork of interrelated stories with a backdrop of finances, dragons and successions that eventually comes together.

After all, it all comes down to the characters. The narration is divided between four PoV (with a few exceptions here and there) and set in the third person perspective.  The 'heroes' are Cithrin, Dawson, Marcus and Geder. At first, the link between them is thin indeed, aside for the attack on Vanai but the relevance of all their paths is more linked than it seems. My empathy for the characters came slowly but became the stronger for it.  At least, it does get connected together but there's a feeling of grander things happening in the future that is quite appealing. We're certainly in for more epic demonstrations.

The four of them are all flawed people. Cithrin is an orphan (no real cliché here, she's not the incarnation of some destiny) with a little tendency toward drunkenness but with a flair for business. Her part is not the most compelling but she creates interesting situations.  Marcus is more straightforward, even uni-dimensional. The ex-hero who lost loved ones and becomes closed when coming into contact with others, aside from Yardem,  his trustworthy Tralgu... His best moments are with Master Kit, a troupe leader with a lot of charisma.

Consequently, there's my two favorite PoV, Geder and Dawson. The last one is a stubborn nobleman believing in the higher calling of aristocracy but with too much dedication. His family entourage is composed of a great supporting cast. Finally, welcome the young outcast dreamer. Geder's storyline is both fun and distressing to follow. The perspectives for him are amazing, he's throwing me off balance.
Abraham's writing is accessible and he easily creates hype through mid lengths chapters where he switches perspective just at the right time to keep my appetite up.  The pace may not be terrific but it flows without making me notice. All in all, it may bit more traditional for Daniel Abraham from what I gather but he does it well enough that it remains a commanding effort.

I have to admit that I stumbled a bit with the different races (thirteen in all) inhabiting the world created by Abraham. I don't know if it's included in the physical edition of the book (I've read a kind of ARC e-book edition) but it can be useful to read An Introduction of the Taxonomy of Races on the author website first.  The descriptions of each race, from Timzinae to Tralgu to Cinnae are brief and the names come a bit too fast for me to get my bearings on them easily. Hopefully the time invested by him to create them and present them in this first book will prove worthy. So far, aside from spicing things up in term of background it doesn't really interfere in the plot.

Moreover, there's the cult of the spider goddess.  They are a recluse sect (a la Dûnyain from Prince of Nothing if you've read some Bakker) whose members are given the ability to detect the lies said by other people.  That's where most of the fantasy elements of the book are concentrated aside from all the dragon lore.  These two instances are again aspects where Abraham succeeded in my opinion.  As for the first, even though it's not a big part of the tale for the first book, the prospect it creates in conjunction with all the plotting and scheming is daunting.  As for the dragon mythos, it may not be specifically important but Geder's readings are where most of the history of the world comes from and it adds depths where the world building is slightly lacking.  However, it's still dragons, not the most original specimen in fantasy these days.

So there you go, another great story has started. I'm pretty sure you'll find at least some characters to your liking in this novel.

Technically, the Orbit books cover is nothing amazing and the focus on a sword is not really representative of what's under the cover (but yes it's still a medieval fantasy setting). A nice map of the world is included and the paperback edition stands at 592 pages.

The Dragon's Path review score :

Characterization............. 9 /10
World building............... 7.5 / 10
Magic system................. 8 / 10
Story.............................. 8.5 / 10
Writing........................... 8 / 10

Overall (not an average) 8.5 / 10


Daniel Abraham's Dragon Path page


moto 360 review said...

This book is an odd concept I struggle to put down it has a term hold on me. Definitely going to read the sequels.

Visit Site said...

For a debut one word amazing! This was my first time picking up one of Mr. Abraham's book's and I am glad I did. The writing style resembles George R. R. By viewpoints and perspective changes through characters but that is it. This man makes a name for himself in the fantasy world and I am happy to ride through this journey reading his words.

a Fantasy Reader All rights reserved © Blog Milk - Powered by Blogger