A Shadow in Summer combines the poetic style of Patrick Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind, the romantic tragedy of Katherine Kerr’s Devery and the deep characters and political games of Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. It is the first in a series of four books, titled The Long Price Quartet, and is the debut novel of Daniel Abraham.
Magic through spirits
Abraham has created a world that feels very alien to our own, yet very similar in some aspects. It has a very Asian feel to it. In this world live the Andat, spirits bordering philosophical thoughts. These spirits can be bound by poets who give these thoughts form in words, thus binding the spirit in a human body. These Andat can then be used to perform the magical tasks that come forth from the task.
A story of conspiracy
In A Shadow in Summer, we follow the story of one of these Andat, Seedless, who can be used to remove seeds from plants, animals, and human beings. In creating Seedless, the poet responsible has made a grave mistake: Seedless hates his master above everything else. This hate is used by the Galts, who seek to destroy the city of Saraykeht, where Seedless and his poet live.
Innocent people become involved in the resulting conspiracy: a woman and her unborn baby, two students of the poets and the woman they both love, and Amat Kyaan, the overseer of a great merchant house in Saraykeht.
As hard as it is to describe the use of Andat for magic, it’s equally difficult to understand it when reading this story. I found it very hard to get used to the unique setting and magic system, as well as the poetic flow of the story. It was that flow, however, that also pulled me in from the first words I read. The characters are extremely well-written. They are both deep and individual. Each character is unique in a way that makes it feel like you’ve actually just met him or her outside the book. They made the confusing start bearable.
Politicking and romantic tragedy
As I mentioned, A Shadow in Summer contains a great deal of politicking and romantic tragedy. These elements forge this book into a true jewel. I do feel, however, that even though I compared Abraham’s work to that of three of the greatest authors in fantasy, he has somewhat overextended himself. Counting only 356 pages (in the paperback edition), A Shadow in Summer did not give these elements the attention they deserved.
Another problem I had with this novel was the fact that the story didn’t seem to move anywhere. A lot happens during the story, but in the end I feel like nothing of importance has really happened at all. Of course, there was much more attention given to the development of characters, thus it never became predictable, but I like a book to contain at least some story development, as well.
Why should you read this book?
Though A Shadow in Summer never reached the level of excellence of the books to which I initially compared it, it is still a highly entertaining novel. If you like any of the aforementioned novels, you will probably enjoy reading this one as well. Don’t expect an epic story, however. A Shadow in Summer is a moving tragedy set in a fantasy world that pulls you in from the first pages, and if you like an emotional book filled with character development, you will most certainly love this one.