Review: The Dragon’s Path
For some unknown, benevolent reason, we fantasy readers have fallen into the good graces of the genre gods. Why is that? you ask. I simply don’t know. Truly. But isn’t it obvious? We’re smack in the middle of a veritable geyser that has brought, or will bring to our greedy little eyes and hands titles from those authors that we most love: WAY OF KINGS, THE HEROES, WISE MAN’S FEAR, THE WHITE-LUCK WARRIOR, BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH, THE CRIPPLED GOD. And who can forget the recent announcement for A DANCE WITH DRAGONS (maybe it will actually happen this time)? Enough big-name books to keep any good fantasy reader satisfied for most of a year, entire. And yet, despite the excitement, despite the fervor, despite the sheer giddiness of it all, there was no other book that I anticipated more than this one. It wasn’t even close (sorry KJ Parker, even this one trumped you).
THE DRAGON’S PATH is the first in The Dagger and the Coin Quintet, a new series of books by Daniel Abraham that should prove to be a staggeringly good ride. After reading his amazing Long Price Quartet, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one. (Did you notice the number of books there? Four in the first series. Five in this one. Trust me, as a reader of fantasy fiction you should already respect this guy for not writing trilogies and/or single-series libraries. Not to mention the fact that the books in this series are scheduled for release at one per year…)
The story itself revolves around four main characters:
Captain Marcus Wester–A man of wide repute, who has dined with kings, commanded soldiers to victory, and won against overwhelming odds, and is now only looking to fill his retinue of guards to make good on a promise of protection for a caravan of trading goods. In doing so, he quickly meets and is affected by–
Cithrin bel Sarcour–Almost seventeen, a ward of the Medean bank in Vanai, every bit the sheltered girl, and suddenly thrust into responsibility and necessary deceit, on behalf of the bank, with the arrival of what has the sense of being a rote gentlemen’s war. Within the advancing army rides–
Sir Geder Palliako–Lover of speculative essay and target of mockery for most of the other soldiers, he’d rather be translating another good book than marching to war, but there’s nothing to be done about it now. It won’t be long though until he’s made a surprising name for himself, earning the immediate notice and extreme gratitude of–
Baron Dawson Kalliam–Friend of King Simeon and self-styled protector of justice in the realm. He wants nothing but to see the kingdom thrive, but struggles against others of his station to steer the direction of the king’s choices to what he believes they should be. He wants nothing more than to do the right thing. And yet, despite all he does, he may have no say in the matter at all.
When I say the story revolves itself around these people, I mean that in every way. Possibly the single-most powerful piece of Abraham’s story-telling is his ability to relay both the impact of his characters upon the world and corresponding impact of it upon them as well. He makes the epic story feel personal, and the intimate one, earth-shattering.
Something that most will notice upon reading any of Abraham’s books, besides his clear and effective prose, is the efficiency with which he writes. This is every bit the case here. There are no pages of descriptive setting, no boring treatises on mythology or history, nor any overly-long explanations as to “why things are the way they are”. We get what we need. We get an engaging story, set in a world as complex and detailed as it is interesting, and we get it through the eyes, and ears, and fingers of the characters. We feel the story. We experience it. Thus, we don’t know everything right at the beginning. There’s no massive learning curve of magic or politics, making the story very accessible. We learn as the characters act, interact, and develop. We see the world at it unfolds in the character’s lives. In this, readers will find that the story moves fluidly and constantly toward its end. And thankfully, we can’t always see to that end. Making for surprises aplenty.
The feel of this book is much more consistent with typical genre fantasy, and is thus significantly different than those of the Long Price. Although, I did find it interesting that this book was very much like the first of the Long Price in nature, in that it told a cohesive story about several characters, gave us a good introduction to the world at hand, and provided an ending that brought satisfactory closure to the story arcs presented. Main threads tied off; larger, very interesting threads, begun.
And can you say anticipation? Whoa. The ending literally had me giggling with it.
The single piece of advice that I would give all readers of this book would be to take your time. The more opportunity you give this book, the more you will love it. I read it twice in preparation for writing this review, and I can honestly say that I liked it more the second time through. First time, I inhaled it. The second, I simply enjoyed.
This is absolutely a fantasy series that no fantasy-lover should miss. If you love story (like us), if you love character (like us), if you love everything that a fantasy story should be (…duh, like us), BUY THIS BOOK! Seriously, people. This train is well worth the price of the ticket. And trust me, you don’t want to miss it.
Recommended age: 16 plus
Language: Very little, though about PG-13 level
Violence: Lotta fighting, no gore, with large-scale slaughter and intimate execution, both
Sex: Infrequent discussion, one brief post-entanglement summary
Bonuses: Who doesn’t love a bonus? Paperback has a chapter from The King’s Blood, book two of the series, at the end. And if you get the e-Book, there’s a complimentary copy of Leviathan Wakes, Abraham’s new co-authored space opera, attached. Happy reading.
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