Monday, April 25, 2011
Review: The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham
The most interesting characters in The Dragon's Path are Cithrin and Geder, however, because their actions, at the best times, are morally ambiguous, deeply affecting, and, most important, truly human. When Geder is forced into a position of power, his conclusion of Vanai sets in motion various other power plays in the kingdom of Antea, where Geder hails from, and eventually sets him out on a journey unlike anything he's known. As dangers coalesce around Cithrin, her decision concerning the wealth of Vanai will potentially make her a very powerful woman - as war hits the continent, many nations may depend on loans from her branch. Both Geder and Cithrin make good and bad choices. Geder's naivete and near-sociopathic tendenies will have you cursing him at some points in the book; yet, in the end, you want Geder to win or, at least, do something right. Cithrin, too, is a complex character: her growth from a frightened girl in a world of unknowns to a confident banker is marvelous, though she is still fueled by the folly of youth.
The world Abraham's built is based around the end of the reign of dragons and the creation of the thirteen races of man. He spends most of the novel with the Firstbloods, glossing over the other twelve races with superficial detail - "tall-eared Tralgu, chitinous Timzinae, tusked Yemmu...The Dartinae had small braziers in their eyeholes...a Kurtadam with clicking beads." If there is a weakness in The Dragon's Path, it's here; however, this being the first book in a series of an expected five, it's possible Abraham well get more in depth with these races as they become important to the tale. Part of the first book in a series of this magnitude is setting up the world, letting the reader know the rules, and Abraham succeeds in that.
Beyond the political intrigues and banking contracts, Abraham has constructed an interesting if familiar back story concerning the age of dragons (who are now extinct, but left jade roads called "dragon roads" in their wake), and a temple of priests who can tell whether or not a person is lying and are concerned with the End of All Doubt and a very nasty spider. The revelation of the "End of All Doubt" is Abraham's intriguing spin on the "looming darkness" or "freeing of the great evil lord" common to commercial epic fantasy; it'll be exciting where he leads us.
Though The Dragon's Path shares similarities with past epic fantasy series', Abraham knows his strengths as a writer and, what might come off as cliche in a lesser writer's pen, here reads excitingly fresh. Recommended.