Daniel Abraham is best known for his undervalued Long Price Quartet (we reviewed the first book in the quartet, A Shadow in Summer). However, he has also written under two different pseudonyms: the urban fantasy Black Sun’s Daughter series as M.L.N. Hanover, and the science fiction series Expanse as James S. A. Corey. His newest novel, published under his own name, is The Dragon’s Path, and it’s the first installment in a promising new series titled The Dagger and the Coin.
Summer is the season of war in the Free Cities. Marcus Wester is a mercenary captain tasked with guarding a caravan out of Vanai, hoping to avoid any wars, big or small. A young girl, Cithrin, has been tasked by the Medean Bank to transport all the bank’s holdings in Vanai before war claims it. Meanwhile, Geder, the son of a minor lord, strives to be taken seriously by his fellow soldiers, but is more often ridiculed for his love of speculative essays and philosophy. And there is Lord Dawson Kalliam, whose actions in the Undying City he does for his king, but which may end up driving his kingdom onto the path of war.
The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham is the beginning of something immense and wondrous. It is a storm coming to life, fueled by the quiet insecurity and sorrow that only humanity is capable of. Once again, Daniel Abraham’s subtle narrative captures exactly what makes one human, and just as painfully, captures what can turn him or her down a road of darkness.
One of the more interesting things about The Dragon’s Path is how often I began comparing it to Shakespeare. Not so much in the prose but in how each character seems influenced by a particular play or character of Shakespeare’s. In Cithrin, I saw Viola, a shy young girl given an impossible task; Marcus Wester reminded me a bit of Prospero, a weary, sorrowful leader; in Geder I saw Macbeth, an embittered noble forced to reckless action: in another time, they may have been portrayed on stage. Abraham paints them with equal doses of tragedy and comedy, though, and gives them enough heart and darkness so they don’t ever become caricatures.
One thing Abraham brings with him from Long Price Quartet, is his succinct, descriptive prose. While the language used in The Dragon’s Path is not as graceful or poetic as that used in Long Price Quartet, it is economical without losing its beautifully narrative quality. At times, Abraham paints the scene with broad strokes and lets the reader fill in the gaps; at others, he’ll sketch furiously on specifics for the reader, and let their imagination fill in the background. But never does Abraham’s writing become something mechanical and soulless—while economical, it was a pleasure to read. The only thing that threw me off at times were the names of different houses and locations tossed around. Those names were sometimes difficult to follow, but that may be because of how new the world and its contents are.
A World Unlike Most Others
The Dragon’s Path is a breath of fresh air for those who enjoy world-building. If you’re fed up with your cookie-cutter orcs, elves, and trolls, this is the book for you. Abraham has created not one but thirteen races of people. Created by the dragons, these races now constitute what is known as humanity. From the tusked, heavy-set Yemmu, to the bronze-scaled Jasuru, Abraham let his imagination go wild in exploring the different ways humanity could have been shaped. Not only that, but there are hints at larger things within the world and its past: hidden sects, the fate of the dragons, and subtle magic that is making a resurgence.
A warning, though: if you want everything spelled out for you in the first book, it’s not going to happen. Abraham is building something complex but is keeping some of his cards to his vest; he’ll reveal it with time, but for now, what he does let on is engaging and exciting.
All The Small Things
One of Abraham’s greatest strengths as a writer is examining the people around him, and seeing how even the smallest trait or feeling can blossom into something wonderful, or wilt and transform into something awful. It’s one of the most fragile things about being human, and Abraham uses every character to examine that condition.
It’s masterful how Abraham gets to the core of most every character. These characters become dynamic, conflicted, and real under his guiding hand. Some of the men and women in this book do awful things, and at times it can become very raw. But while it is raw, it is also real, because Abraham doesn’t skip a beat in showing you how they come to make such heartbreaking decisions.
So Why Should You Read This Book?
The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham is the beginning of something truly epic. As accessible as it is engrossing, Abraham has created a fantasy adventure with real characters, an interesting and complex world, and beautiful writing. This is a page-turner that will have you coming back for more.
Marty received a review copy of this book courtesy of Orbit Books.