From the first pages on, you know this book is going to be something extraordinary: it grips you, and both the world and the characters are utterly convincing, from the moment they are put to the page. It is fantasy, but it is very much its own thing, and escapes Tolkien’s heritage seemingly effortlessly.
It is original and poetic, emotional and thrilling – and yet it doesn’t feature any high fantasy action, magic fireballs, enchanted swords or shrieking dragons. Still, the magic is of the best I’ve come across, and even without a lot of violence the book is a page turner.
It’s an exciting story, yet the writing is restrained: Abraham could have taken the ideas behind the magic and showed off, choosing the spectacular path of letting the andat do all kind of neat tricks. Yet he doesn’t. He only lets the reader in on what’s needed for the story, and in doing so makes that story much, much better than in the hands of a lesser writer.
So, Daniel Abraham clearly is a master. Although this is ‘but’ a debut, it feels like a very balanced and mature book of someone who has been writing lengthy stories forever. There is no filler here, there is no side plot put in for cheap entertaining effect, no clichéd character for the reader to hang on to. Abraham shows wisdom about the human condition throughout the book, and chooses beautiful images and phrases more than occasionally. This book isn’t a lucky shot or a one-off thing. It breathes finesse.
A Shadow in Summer is the first in a series of 4, but it is a story that can stand by itself. At the end of the 331 pages, it comes to its own conclusion. There are no cliffhangers, and yet I can’t wait to read A Betrayal in Winter.
I’m surprised this doesn’t get mentioned more often in lists or recommendations. I could go on and on about it, but the prologue of the book will do its own bidding. Get it. Read it. Spread the word.
Nowadays, it is only available in Shadow and Betrayal, a single volume combining the first two books of the Long Price.
originally written on the 21st of February, 2015