The Tyrant's Law review

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Tyrant's Law is the third novel in the Dagger and the Coin series by Daniel Abraham.  The book was released in May 2013 and will be followed by The Widow's House next year. If you haven't read the first two books, there may be minor spoilers in my review.
The great war cannot be stopped. 
The tyrant Geder Palliako had led his nation to war, but every victory has called forth another conflict. Now the greater war spreads out before him, and he is bent on bringing peace. No matter how many people he has to kill to do it. 
Cithrin bel Sarcour, rogue banker of the Medean Bank, has returned to the fold. Her apprenticeship has placed her in the path of war, but the greater dangers are the ones in her past and in her soul. 
Widowed and disgraced at the heart of the Empire, Clara Kalliam has become a loyal traitor, defending her nation against itself. And in the shadows of the world, Captain Marcus Wester tracks an ancient secret that will change the war in ways not even he can forsee.
For me, The Dagger and the Coin was definitely one of the best ongoing series in Fantasy back when I read King's Blood (I forgot to post a review but it was among my best novels of last year... I will remedy to it soon) and still is with the addition of The Tyrant's Law to the sequence. Abraham's opus doesn't read as a trilogy or as a series with bridging books but as a direct continuation from one novel to the next.  The flow of his story is paced smoothly but in retrospect, you clearly realize that much ground has been covered, not simply in term of land traveled but in term of themes explored and characters traits scrutinized.

With a similar narrative structure, The Tyrant's Law is alternating the point of views of the characters we are familiar with, imperfect many-sided beings more than fun to watch evolve or decay. However, the book would have benefited from a new perspective, it sorely needs some fresh insight.  Since one, and one of the most interesting protagonist to follow is out of the picture, Clara, who was a secondary player, or at least doing her things with more subtlety, is now at the fore.  Behind each great man is an even greater woman. This line applies to Clara without question in the first two books but I found her less appealing in her new role.  She's the sole character whose chapters I wish were less frequent.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are most of the other characters and bearing the title of compelling greatness is Geder.  Since The Dragon's Path, where I was thrown off balance by some storylines full of potential like his, the shy and self-esteem lacking regent has gone far.  Far in developing his paranoia with the help of the spider goddess disciples and in altering the life of a multitude of vulnerable people. Folly, ineptitude, sincerity and fear make an appalling prospect when wearing the garments of ultimate ruler. I would never have thought that the story of an unwilling and unknowing kind of villain could be so interesting.

As for Marcus and Cithrin, we were all waiting for their reunion.  While that moment looms slowly, Marcus is journeying to far away countries beside the sympathetic but enigmatic Kit and the various outcomes of their endeavors are fuel for both dread and laughter.  The magistrate is without rest, still in tutelage before finally getting her own branch of the Medean Bank.  She's the first witness of Geder's fallout with his invasion and is probably one of the most irresistible female character out there.

The Tyrant's Law and its predecessors aren't flashy books, they are not doing some hand waving, reveling in gory details or even battle oriented books. The series is still sitting well with the Epic realm template but in a completely contrasting aspect. We are living the effects of war and invasion, of naive self-delusion reaching the summit of power, of racism and of living in roles while escaping reality in drunkenness or hard work through the eyes of both common and unlikely characters.

What I especially like about Abraham's story and storytelling is the feeling of being lead somewhere full of surprise, not jaw dropping amazement but toward an unexpected outcome in which I will be able to grasp the circumstances leading to it and being awed at the pieces of the big picture put together, even if some are a seen from afar. Softly assessing the situation of all protagonists with both important and usual moments can be deeply immersing and revealing but also insipid at first glance. Moreover, getting this feeling while reading a high quality prose is more than satisfying.

With three books set in this world where economy and relationship between nations feels more real than what were used to witness in Fantasy, the background needs less development but still feels fresh and full of discoveries.  The author's choice of not delivering all the details of the various races is effective and slowly they are becoming more and more familiar.  They now stand as one of the elements at the heart of the story. Add to the recipe politics, cultist advisers and finally the tease of still living dragons and you get more for your money than what it seems.

The Tyrant's Law isn't straying far for the formula of the two previous books and that's a good thing for the most part.  The novel could have been improved in some aspects but I still feel strong eagerness for the follow-up.  The ending is surely playing a significant part in this...

Technically, I don't like that much the cover art for the Orbit books edition. The paperback edition stands at 528 pages and includes the map of the countries bordering the Ocean and Inner seas, which is also posted at the map index.

The Tyrant's Law review rating :

World building
Magic system 

Overall (not an average)


Cursed Armada said...

I wasn't a huge fan of this latest installment. I totally agree that we are in desperate need of a new POV. I can't help but feel like this series is generic fantasy fare. I kept waiting for some huge shock, but even the ending cliffhanger left me feeling unmoved. I'll read the next one because I'm invested in the characters, but I really hope it improves. Geder remains a favorite though.

Phil said...

@Ross: Glad to hear from you!

I can't really say that it felt generic to me, some elements like the economic considerations, the portrayal of Geder as an unknowing villain and smaller things like Kit talent or the various races keeps it fresh enough for me, gives it a touch of uniqueness. However, with a nice prose and amazing character (for the most part... Clara is another question), I'm still hooked.

Have you read the Long Price Quartet by Abraham? I haven't but the word is that it's less conventional...

Customer recommendations for Alaska Real Estate website said...

The Tyrant's Law is the third in a planned five book cycle. There are many revelations in this book that make me believe that the best is yet to come! I cannot recommend this book and the entire series enough.

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