Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Dragon's Path - Daniel Abraham


About the Book

Summer is the season of war in the Free Cities.

Marcus wants to get out before the fighting starts. His hero days are behind him and simple caravan duty is better than getting pressed into service by the local gentry. Even a small war can get you killed. But a captain needs men to lead -- and his have been summarily arrested and recruited for their swords.

Cithrin has a job to do -- move the wealth of a nation across a war zone. An orphan raised by the bank, she is their last hope of keeping the bank's wealth out of the hands of the invaders. But she's just a girl and knows little of caravans, war, and danger. She knows money and she knows secrets, but will that be enough to save her in the coming months?

Geder, the only son of a noble house is more interested in philosophy than swordplay. He is a poor excuse for a soldier and little more than a pawn in these games of war. But not even he knows what he will become of the fires of battle. Hero or villain? Small men have achieved greater things and Geder is no small man.

Falling pebbles can start a landslide. What should have been a small summer spat between gentlemen is spiraling out of control. Dark forces are at work, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon's Path -- the path of war.

555 pages (paperback
Author’s Webpage
Published by Orbit

I received a copy of this book through netgalley. 

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Daniel Abraham is known for his fantasy series, The Long Price Quartet, which, unfortunately, never made him as big a hit in the fantasy arena as he should have been. Thus, The Dragon’s Path is a kind of a fantasy relaunch for Abraham and stands in stark contrast to The Long Price Quartet. Where The Long Price Quartet stepped away from many traditional fantasy tropes, like a European-esque culture, The Dragon’s Path embraces them, right down to many traditional epic fantasy elements many harp on in reviews. However, the difference here is that Abraham takes these epic fantasy elements and deftly makes them his own.

The Dragon’s Path is the first book in a new series, and thus, spends quite a bit of time building the world and giving the reader a background. Abraham, however, excels at making this world building and background-giving novel seem less like a textbook than many other first-in-a-series novels. In fact, Abraham deftly weaves his world building and historic information in with the story in such a way that many readers may absorb much of this information without realizing they are doing so. There really are no heavy, plot-dragging infodumps.

The Dragon’s Path is easy to become absorbed in. Abraham’s writing is tight and flowing without too much flowery prose. The simple, yet descriptive and efficient writing style makes this book easily accessible. However, that’s not to say it is bland. The Dragon’s Path is punctuated with unique voices and perspectives making this a truly one-of-a-kind blend of a plot and character driven book.

Speaking of characters, The Dragon’s Path follows four different and distinct characters, each chapter switching to a different perspective. While fantasy readers may become annoyed with multiple perspectives, Abraham keeps his main cast down to four, and all of the plots and situations they find themselves in are fairly self-contained. Thus, much of the confusion found in many other epic fantasy novels simply isn’t a factor in The Dragon’s Path. The character perspectives are refreshingly easy to keep track of and their voices are all distinct and unique in their own way. Though some characters have been developed better than others, it’s quite easy to overlook once the reader gets truly involved in the plot and the voices being used to convey the tale.

Abraham seems to measure his plot minutely and keeps it moving at his incredibly controlled pace. Where many epic fantasy series seem to focus on military might and strength, Abraham branches out. His action is much more subtle than military campaigns. He plot is overlaid with character relationships and drama. He highlights economic issues and their widespread effects as well as political maneuvering and manipulations. Even his subplots seem measured and incredibly self-contained. Everything about The Dragon’s Path is meticulously laid out and richly detailed. The book itself is told with Abraham’s somewhat understated but elegant prose making many of these small details, subplots and rich textures easy to overlook.

That being said, The Dragon’s Path, while being rich and, in many ways, refreshing, is somewhat culturally reminiscent of many other epic fantasies that have come before it. The political sphere is somewhat stale, with the same lords and ladies seen in many other books. The world building, while enjoyable, is also somewhat problematic in the fact that Abraham seemed to miss a great opportunity to make much of his world stand apart from other epic fantasy books. There was almost no focus on the unique religion(s) of his areas, or the interesting cultural amalgamations which would occur when thirteen different species come together to live in one city. Furthermore, while history was discussed, I felt that it was interesting enough to warrant more of a focus than Abraham gave it. These small details could have brought The Dragon’s Path from wonderful to incredible.

While there are many reasons to read, and enjoy, The Dragon’s Path like rich details, somewhat understated writing, a self-contained and highly measured plot and engrossing characters, there are also flaws. The Dragon’s Path does utilize many common epic fantasy elements, and because of that, it can seem a bit stale in some areas. However, despite that, The Dragon’s Path is a strong start to a new series, which is sure to please many readers, and is a book fantasy fans shouldn’t miss.

4/5 stars

1 comment:

  1. I got a copy of this one through NetGalley, too, and I started reading it recently. It's pretty good so far, though I'm not terribly far into it. It does seem to be one of those books where I can easily lose track of just how long I've been reading, though, which is definitely fun!

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