Synopsis: A religious order works to bring their ancient evil goddess back into a high-fantasy world. Wars, intrigue, and civil revolt erupt. This is the second book in a series, preceded by The Dragon’s Path.
Book Review: Daniel Abraham excels at characterization. Every single character is a vibrant, living individual, with a strong personality and internal motivations. They live beyond the mere pages of the book. His plotting is also well-thought out and intricate. The political realities of his world, combine with this characters he’s populated it with, lead inevitably to tragic outcomes. However these results are never due to contrived situations or authorial fiat, but arise naturally and unavoidably because due who the characters are. The seeds of their demise are sown deeply within themselves. There are many class conflicts and deep-rooted problems. This is intelligent fiction for intelligent readers. Unfortunately his prose is a little flat, I never truly fell in love with the world like I did in Way of Kings, or Daniel’s earlier Leviathan Wakes
(with Ty Franck). The book also suffers from Second Book Syndrome – it feels primary as a way of bringing the action from the first book to the next book without being critical or exhilarating in its own right. Compared to Dragon’s Path, the stakes in this book are less personal to the protagonists (generally), and the tension is less tense. This is a good book on its own, but not a great book. I would Recommend the previous book – The Dragon’s Path – and I want to say this one is right on the edge of Recommended, but I honestly think that will depend on the following book(s) in the series. So – provisionally Not Quite Recommended.
Book Club Review: This is another great book for book clubs. Abraham makes a lot of commentary on issues that are ripe for discussion. The conflict between the monetary power of the merchant class and the political power of the noble classes is explored. Our society has decided that the merchants are more deserving of their power, having earned it – but their mercenary dedication to profit seems to hurt us in other ways. Wouldn’t a noble class with a mandate to rule well and a strong sense of noblesse oblige work as well or better? Geder seems to represent the forces of Progressivism, being liberal and educated and very geeky, and he is responsible for atrocities and is an absolutely awful ruler. I don’t know if Abraham is as interested in the Neo-Reactionaries as I am, but Dawson seems to represent the forces of Neo-Reactionism very well. He is intelligent, honorable, and rules well and with integrity. However he’s also an elitist prick who considers the common people to be in a class slightly below human… and he ends up plunging the kingdom into a vicious civil war. Abraham is as good at taking both sides of a complicated issue as he is at portraying all sides of a complicated character.
Furthermore, based on this book and Leviathan Wakes, I get the impression he is not as impressed with truth and honesty as most people say they are. He almost seems to be saying there are times when it is better to suppress the truth and lie to the public, if it results in better outcomes. Or does he? His nuance, intelligence, and ambiguity make for great discussion, we went on for quite a while. Recommended!