Tag Archives: Daniel Abraham

THE DRAGON’S PATH – Daniel Abraham (2011)

The Dragon's PathRecurring readers of Weighing A Pig won’t be surprised that I hold Daniel Abraham’s exceptional debut series, The Long Price quartet in very high regard. It was the most emotional story I’ve read last year. The series is secondary world fantasy, but it’s very much its own thing, with a subdued use of a highly original and poetic idea for a magic system.

That’s tough to beat. I was underwhelmed by Leviathan Wakes, the first entry in a space opera series Abraham co-wrote with Ty Franck as James S.A. Corey. And I’m sad to report that I’m also a bit underwhelmed by this first book in the epic high fantasy series The Dagger And The Coin, albeit less so: I don’t think I will continue The Expanse SF-series, but I’ll probably give the second book of TDATC, The King’s Blood, a real chance.

The Dragon’s Path is the first of 5 books, and it suffers from having to set things up. That’s a much read remark in reviews of fantasy series. Still, a first book doesn’t have to suffer from having to set-up things at all, as Abraham proved himself with the stunning A Shadow In Summer.

Of note is this part of an interesting interview with Abraham:

Epic fantasy is, I think, a genre about war and – in the best ones – an ambivalence about war. There are plenty of fantasies that are triumphalist, but the ones that really last are frankly melancholy. (…) The aspect that I’ve taken in The Dagger and the Coin is the way that the story of a war, be it propaganda or history, outstrips the war itself. That’s at the large scale. The thing that I find myself going back to in books that I love are the characters. So I’ve peopled these books with characters I like spending time with. 

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LEVIATHAN WAKES – James S.A. Corey (2011)

Leviathan WakesExcellent science fiction needs two things: a great story and great ideas. Leviathan Wakes doesn’t offer much of both.

The universe it portrays feels small and not fully fleshed out – the only science that is tackled more or less thoroughly is g-acceleration, and it’s mentioned ad nauseam. The world building is just a vague backdrop to the action. There’s hardly anything original in the book – even the horror aspects are routine.

The story is okay, but generic too, and drags in the beginning: it takes about half of the 561 pages to become engaging. It’s a fast, uncomplicated read nonetheless, but still, it should have been trimmed down at least 100 pages – I found myself skimming multiple times over a couple of pages because they didn’t advance the story nor offered any else that was interesting. The two main characters are rather clichéd and all other characters are just functional sides. It generally lacks depth.

The io9.com-quote on the cover nailed it: it’s a book equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster. If that sounds up your alley, give this book a try. But if you’re short on time, and want your mind truly engaged by a book in a similar setting, read 2312 instead.

I’m a big fan of Daniel Abraham’s The Long Price Quartet – James S.A. Corey is the shared pen name of Abraham and Ty Franckso I had high hopes for this series. I also hoped that what I gathered from other reviews – not to expect a lot of originality or refinement – would prove untrue. It didn’t. Is this lack compensated for by other good stuff – thrills, fun and general coolness? Not much. Leviathan Wakes is simply run-of-the-mill space opera. It’s entertaining most of the time, but nothing more. Yes, it might become a great TV-show. I hope so. I might even read book 2, but given the monstrous size of my ever growing TBR-list, it’s more unlikely than likely.

originally written on the 31st of May, 2015

THE PRICE OF SPRING – Daniel Abraham (2009)

The Price Of SpringWhen I ended this book – and with it the series – my cheeks were moist with tears, and my lips formed a broad smile. It is one of the faces of happiness I take most delight in, and it is rare. The series as a whole is among the best things I’ve ever read.

The Price Of Spring takes off slowly, and feels a bit like an afterthought to the impressive ending of the third book at first. But after about 100 pages, it picks up speed and becomes a page turner too. More importantly, the true magnitude of Abraham’s power as an author becomes clear. The series is stunningly well conceived, and the full weight of plot lines started in A Shadow in Summer start to reveal itself. There are no loose ends and it turns out that nothing in the books is superfluous. Yet, it doesn’t feel forced at all. One of the main qualities of this series is that it feels so natural and so balanced that one forgets one is reading something artificial, a construct by an author. This goes for the plot, and it goes for the prose too. Both the language and the deeply moving story about humanity this giant set of words convey, couldn’t resonate more with the reality of life and the order of things.

The series spans the life of Otah Machi, and as such has it all: the energy, hope and folly of youth, the contemplation, regret and peace of old age, and everything in between. It is very much a story about human characters, and not about gods or immortal mages. It is deeply moving, and yet as exciting as any other great adventure tale set in a fantastical world. Its canvas is big enough, so that the story about friendship and family is not a mere miniature, but something fleshed out, given depth and perspective by the politics and history around it. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes nations to bring great characters truly to life.

For me, the greatest quality of The Long Price Quartet is that is has no pretension whatsoever. It does not try to show off, nor tries to preach. It is not heavy handed, nor overshadowed by something other than itself. And while magicians are called poets in the books, it is not meta literature. The messages it conveys are old, simple and humble ones. It doesn’t need some showy narrative device, it doesn’t try to be different or new, it’s not centered around some gimmick or one neat idea. The books of the Long Price are about love and life. Please, give them a try.

Nowadays the last 2 books of the Long Price Quartet are only available in one tome, entitled Seasons Of War.

Seasons Of War

originally written on the 3rd of May, 2015

AN AUTUMN WAR – Daniel Abraham (2008)

An Autumn WarThe third in the series, one of the better books I’ve ever read, and probably the best of the series so far. Surprising, emotional, compassionate, deep, character driven, moving, and utterly original. As the title suggests, this time the focus is on war, and as such it is again a totally different book than the previous two, again with a story that concludes itself nicely in this volume itself.

And again, Abraham’s prose is gorgeous: so clear and seemingly easy, yet gems of beautiful images and razor-sharp observations are spread throughout.

Don’t dwell on it, go read it. Of course, start with book one of the quartet, A Shadow In Summer.

originally written on the 2nd of April, 2015

A BETRAYAL IN WINTER – Daniel Abraham (2007)

A Betrayal In WinterA Betrayal in Winter is the second book of the Long Price Quartet. For once this is a book of which the raving back cover blurbs are all true.

“There is much to love in the Long Price Quartet. It’s epic in scope, but character-centered. The setting is unique yet utterly believable. The storytelling is smooth, careful, and – best of all – unpredictable.” (Patrick Rothfuss)

“To call Daniel Abraham an exciting new author is to wildly understate the case. His entire Long Price Quartet is utterly original and incredibly seductive”. (Connie Willis)

“A Betrayal in Winter is exactly the kind of book I love: dynamic characters, sharp plotting, and an original, thoughtful take on magic. Abraham knows what he’s doing.” (Brandon Sanderson)

…all that, and the fact that this book is at times highly emotional too. It’s also a more important story about gender than Ancillary Justice or The Left Hand of Darkness, as it doesn’t have any easy surface gender story signifiers – on the contrary, it feels like a classic Shakespearian tale of intrigue, love, family and power.

Like the first book, this also comes to an elegant finish of its own. If you haven’t, read A Shadow In Summer first. I’m pretty sure you’ll feel compelled to read the entire Long Price Quartet.

originally written on the 11th of March, 2015

A SHADOW IN SUMMER – Daniel Abraham (2006)

A Shadow In SummerFrom 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 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.

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.

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 alone. 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.

Shadow And Betrayal

originally written on the 21st of February, 2015