Musings on writing, lessons learned by an aspiring professional, book reviews, movie reviews, an occasional t.v. show review, and unashamed opinion.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Dragon's Path

The Dragon's Path, by Daniel Abraham, is an excellent book to read if you're looking for a well-crafted fantasy.  I wouldn't classify it as epic fantasy--it's more sword and sorcery--actually it's a bit difficult to pin down the sub-genre it would fall under.  Say it's fantasy.  Say it's good fantasy.  Works for me.

The author is George R.R. Martin's protege.  Because of this, I was expecting a fairly dark, morose tale.  I can see the series as a whole going this way, but this first book never quite wandered in to that edgy, post-modern area of gray fantasy.  (One character falls from grace, but it didn't have that dark fantasy feel to it.)  I was pleasantly surprised by this, even though I had been anticipating another direction from the opening pages.

Marcus is a renowned general, who will no longer fight for lords.  Now he sells his sword.  Cithrin is an orphan raised by a bank.  She will stop at nothing to gain power.  Geder is a soft, pampered lord, who has learned of the world only through books.  He will make everyone pay who has insulted him.  Dawson is a noble of the king's court, watching as his country crumbles around him.  He will not let his nation go down the dragon's path.  There's my little summary of the book.  Pretty darn good, if you ask me.  Maybe the publisher should pay me to write for them...

The world in TDP is like this: once, the dragons ruled.  They were lords of a massive empire, like Rome.  They created thirteen races of humans to serve them.  And then they fell.  The story picks up quite a while after the dragons' decline, though I can't remember if the time elapsed is ever specified.  It has been long enough that the dragons no longer exist, except in history.  The setting is reminiscent of Renaissance Europe, with a definite Italian feel.  The Italian flavor isn't as apparent as it is in Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, but I'd say it was the starting point for the book's culture.

TDP is one of those fantasies with very little magic onscreen.  I tend to like this kind of fantasy better.  Like A Game of Thrones, it feels more historical than fantastic.  That isn't to say that there isn't magic, however.  I'd say it shows up around 3/4 of the way through, and plays a large part in the plot of one character.  My biggest complaint would be that the thirteen races feel a bit D&Dish, and some of the political scheming is somewhat dull.  But the characters--primary and secondary--are intriguing, fully-realized, and worth spending time with.  Daniel Abraham definitely knows how to spin a good yarn.

George R.R. Martin suggests voting for The Dragon's Path for the Hugo this year.  I wouldn't call it Hugo worthy, but it is absolutely worth your time and dime.  If you choose to go the audio route like me, the narrator does a nice job with the voices.

The Dragon's Path gets 3.5 stars out of 5.   


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