|Mark Andrew Edwards||
|Mark Andrew Edwards||
The Dragon's Path surprised me, pleasantly.
I didn't know much about Daniel Abraham, going into this. He was suggested by a friend of a friend kind of thing and somehow, in my head, I got him mixed up with Peter Orullian. Don't ask. I have not read his Long Price quartet, but now I think I will.
This is a pretty straightforward secondary-world Fantasy. It's a low magic world, one where Dragons magically created a number of human sub-races and then killed each other off in near-legendary past. The sub-races are one of the few stumbles. The idea is cool but trying to keep clear the difference between a Tralgu and a Yemmu is hard. If ever a book needed accompanying illustrations, it's this one. It's a concept that belongs more in a role playing game than in a novel or maybe the author just didn't' do enough description up front. That's a tough balancing act, I know, between too much info and too little. Where it came to the races, I'm afraid he erred on the side of too little but that was the only thing to take me out of the story. Well that and one of the characters burning a city of ten thousand people in a fit of pique.
There is a lot of politics, which I love, but not a ton of action. That doesn't mean there isn't tension, though. There is, on nearly every page there is conflict. Just don't expect a lot of sword fights or magical duels.
What you do have are pretty compelling characters, with flaws the reader can see that the characters themselves can't (nice bit of tension and irony there as you are mentally yelling at people not to do something). There are no clear villains in this book, either and the traditional hero, Marcus, isn't really the focus of the book. This is the first in a 3+ book series so what we're mostly doing here is setup and worldbuilding but most of the characters (but not Marcus) do get a story arc that resolves in the best way possible: by making space for more stories.
I'm being a bit vague on the plot, but not deliberately. There's no earth-shaking mysteries here, just a lot of characters. This is fantasy VERY much in the George R. Martin mold, albeit, without the GRRM bodycount of main characters. If you like A Game of Thrones, I can safely say you'll like this book.
Ok, let me dig in a little bit more about what worked and what didn't for me.
The good: I like most of the characters. They felt real and where they didn't feel real, they felt interesting. For example, Cithrin is a very interesting female protagonist. She's very intellectual, very smart but she doesn't feel like the teenager she's supposed to be. I can feel the author trying but she just feels too mature. That's not a serious dig, though, because I did find her interesting and I cared about her and her problems. Geder, different story but I'll get to him in the 'bad' section below.
The world is also interesting. I like that the world feels lived in, people have prejudices, needs, wants, conflicting desires. The world had dragons ruling humans, changing them, making them into purpose-made slave races. That's very cool. The main kingdom we see, Antea, feels Roman, specifically Republican era room where nobles jostled to be 'First Man', albeit, there is a king in Antea. Still, I like Rome and the Republican era so that really worked for me.
Daniel Abraham does a good job of keeping the reader's interest. Good pacing, good use of tension and plot hooks. He's definitely a good writer and, again that surprised me just because I hadn't heard of him.
Ok, on to the bad:
I had a real problem with Geder who ends up with the biggest changes in the book. He starts out a bookworm and a buffoon but ends up rising the highest in society by being the right pawn in the right place with the right (lack) of connections. He's the guy who burned an entire city to the ground and, yes, he regrets it and is even haunted by it. But that doesn't explain WHY he would think mass murder would be a good idea. It is baffling. Also, his return back to the main capital he uncovers a conspiracy and becomes renowned all in the course of one chapter. This really should have been drawn out, with us seeing him interacting with more people and him uncovering more over time. I don't know if this was an editorial decision or if the author was just rushing towards the ending. Which I get, I've done that, too. But it stood out.
Also Marcus Wester is unused here. He's just a mass of unresolved tensions and unrealized action. He's supposed to be a deadly swordsman, reputed to be a literally legendary leader but we never see him fight. Never see him do much of anything. God knows, David Gemmell would have known what to do with this character but I get the feeling David Abraham put this character into the book because he felt he needed to but they didn't know how to actually write an action hero. Dunno. It's like putting a legendary gunslinger in a western novel and then never having him draw his gun. It's just odd.
The only real misstep is the number of races and the difficulty in picturing them, though. The issues I have with Marcus and Geder are mostly nit picks. It's a good book and I'll be buying the rest of the series.