Set in a fairly typical fantasy world, the Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham introduces a measured approach to what, at least I believe, will be an epic series of books. The world is revealed in small bits and pieces along the way as the characters progress. The world in itself seems loosely based upon the old italian principalities of post-medieval times. I've seen complaints that people feel the world-building has been stood to far in the corner, something that usually irks me, but I was swept away by the story so thoroughly that I hardly noticed. I've snuck a peak through a few reviews of the King's Blood (book 2) and the general conscensus seem to be that everything (well, mostly the parts you need) will be revealed in time.
|Abraham's world map|
“Stop!” the man cried in a deep and resonant voice. “Stop now, and come near! Hear the tale of Aleren Mankiller and the Sword of the Dragons! Or if you are faint of heart, move on. For our tale is one of grand adventure. Love, war, betrayal, and vengeance shall spill out now, upon these poor boards, and I warn you . . .”
The actor’s voice seemed to drop to a whisper, though it still carried as clearly as the shouting.
“. . . not all that are good end well. Not all that are evil are punished. Come close, my friends, and know that in our tale as in the world, anything may happen.”
Abraham writes a story beginning both in the city of Vanai as well as in the Kingdom of the Firstbloods, Antea. In Vanai the Medean bank faces a mercantile problem in the city's Prince who is at war with a neighbouring state and needs all the funds and men he can acquire. The Vanai angle gives us the POVs of both Cithrin Bel Sarcour, a half Cinnae girl of 17 and a ward of the Medean bank, and Marcus Wester, a cynical mercenary who's had a long fall from fortune and seeks a way out of Vanai without being pressganged.
In Antea we see factions vying for the King's favour one being led by Dawson Kalliam, the King's old friend and ally. Together with his allies he seeks a way to discredit his opponents at court before the power balance shifts.
In the field but heiring from Antea we also follow the young nobleman Geder Palliako's rise into prominence inspite of his own best efforts.
Abraham leads us on a chase as Cithrin and Marcus travel from Vanai and then into bank intrigues as they arrive in Porte Oliva. Cithrin's character goes through a dramatic progress from frightened teenager to a young woman who uses her wits and knowledge drummed into her as a ward to prosper in the new city. Marcus remains the stalward mercenary wounded and still tormented by his past. I've seen many reviews claiming this makes him a somewhat one-dimensional character but I believe part of this is because he is coupled with Cithrin who together with Geder Palliako goes through the book's most dramatic changes. He serves his purpose as a father-figure/reliable to give Cithrin something to cling to, some security which would seem essential to her eventual growth.
The court intrigues of the Antean court with the Baron Dawson Kalliam at their heart are well written and somewhat reminiscent of George RR Martin's court, they do lack quite a few of the twists and turns though. Dawson is a traditionalist, something that gives his character that much more depth in the context of the story. You find yourself rooting for someone who to all appearances is an elitist bigot, but somehow you feel he is fighting for a just cause. Even if that cause is his King's life and trying to keep Antea what it is and always has been. The two, well not entirely, story focal points are tied finely together in short cameos and mentions along the way.
I'm looking at getting The King's Blood, book 2 in the series, with the next batch of books I buy. I would say for a first book in an epic series Daniel Abraham may have let a few people down with his world-building. Me, however, I was to caught up to notice. I can't wait to see the development of the anti-hero that is Geder Palliako with his new position at the court of Antea as well as Dawson's struggle in the face of the changes which are roiling underneath. I would recommend the book to most of my friends, and I feel that it's particularly good in that it serves quite well as an introductary book as well as being a must read for someone who reads a lot in the genre.
READSTER MAGNITUDE SCALE: 6.8
REMINDS ME OF: At a glance I would say the Dragon's Path is similar in style to the Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. They share traits in the introductory style even if Lynch sets a far higher tempo towards the latter parts of the Lies of Locke Lamora.
It is slightly reminiscent of parts of George RR Martin's work with the focus on characters and the sparse use of magic but it reads more like an adventure story than a court intrigue in its entirety and is far from as brutal as a Song of Ice and Fire.