Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The King's Blood

The King's Blood
by Daniel Abraham
Recommended Ages: 14+

The fantasy world introduced in The Dragon's Path continues to grow in depth and danger in this second book of "The Dagger and the Coin." Multiple story lines, depicted from alternating characters' points of view, include a young girl's struggle to be accepted as a woman of business, a military veteran's search for a cause to give his life meaning after he has lost everything he ever cared about, a noble couple's devastating sacrifices for the good of their country, a runaway priest's growing conviction that the god he used to serve is about to destroy the world, and an insecure weakling's so-awful-it-could-be-true rise to power in a world teetering on the brink of an all-consuming war.

I listened to the audiobook (read by Pete Bradbury) of both of the first two books in this quintet, one right after the other. This had two effects detrimental to my ability to write an accurate review. First, I can't clearly recall where one ended and the other began. Second, I have no idea how to spell any of the character or place names in this series. More research is definitely indicated, but for me, it will probably continue to be an affair of the ears, as these socio-political-economic-military novels are so rich in challenging ideas, and so loaded with thrills and chills, that they seem like the perfect thing to take on a long road trip. Also, my area's public library system seems to be carrying the series, so that's convenient.

Looking back after leaving this review in "pending" mode for a while, one thing that still sticks out is the character of Geder (OK, I looked that up). Just when you're starting to sympathize with him, he does something that tops all previous atrocities and fills you with bloodcurdling horror. Then, when you're sure that he's the chief monster in the tale, you find yourself starting to feel sorry for him again. Particularly under the influence of the company he keeps in this book, he has the potential to be worse than Hitler in proportion to the size of his world, and yet his vulnerability, inner conflict and occasional flashes of nobility are off-putting. The ambiguity of his portrayal is almost as disturbing as the magnitude of evil that he represents - and that at least one character recognizes, to his great cost.

Daniel Abraham has also released the five-book "Black Sun's Daughter" series under the pen-name M.L.N. Hanover, starting with the book Unclean Spirits; penned eight or so "Expanse" books (starting with Leviathan Wakes), co-written with Ty Franck under the shared pseudonym James S.A. Corey; co-created the related TV-series The Expanse, which is currently going into its fourth season; and wrote several other books under his own name, including the "Long Price" quartet. He has been nominated for the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards for his novelette "The Cambist and Lord Iron: a Fairytale of Economics," a Nebula for the novelette "Flat Diane" (which won an International Horror Guild Award), and another Hugo for Leviathan Wakes. He also seems to run in George R.R. Martin's crowd. This information leaves me ambivalent as to how deeply I want to commit to exploring Abraham's worlds; I don't, after all, get the appeal of Game of Thrones. But based on these intriguing books, I might give The Expanse a chance.

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