Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Price of Spring - Daniel Abraham

The Price of Spring is the concluding volume of Abraham's highly praised Long Price Quartet. I absolutely loved the first three books and so far I have been unable to pick my favourite among them. An Autumn War, the third book in the series has one of the strongest endings I've read recently. Abraham set an equally high standard in the rest of the series, especially his choice of characters and the characterization in general appeal to me. In this book Abraham maintains his high standard but while this final book is certainly a very good novel I can't help but feel the real climax of the series was indeed An Autumn War.

The Price of Spring opens some fifteen years after the events in An Autumn War. Maati's failed binding of the Andat Sterile has left the female population of Khaiem and the male population of Galt unable to have children. The two enemies are condemned to each other if they are to survive. But common sense is the last thing on the minds of these old enemies. Fifteen years after the war no children have been born in either nation and they are slowly fading. Something needs to be done to prevent both nations from disappearing or being overrun by neighbouring states. Both Otah and Maati have their ideas on how to deal with the crisis.

Otah, emperor of the Khaiem since the war, has travelled to Galt to propose an exchange of (fertile) men and women between the two nations. The men of Galt, robbed of their manhood (or so they seem to think) oppose the deal but in an inspired bit of negotiating Otah manages to get some of the more influential women behind his proposal. To seal the agreement a marriage between Otah's son and a daughter of one of the high ranking Galts is arranged. Otah has failed to ask one of the most important pieces in the agreement for her thoughts on the matter and he will pay for that mistake.

Maati on the other hand, is not willing to let go of thousands of years of history and tradition. He is working on a way the recreate the Andat, this time not using the male grammar that has been used for centuries, but by gathering a group of young Khaiem women around him and train them to become poets. When the emperor's daughter Eiah, who feels her father is abandoning his female subjects by importing Galt brides, decides to support him, his chances of rebinding the Andat look good.

Driven by guilt of their part in the disaster, the two former best friends are on very different tracks to solving the problems facing the Khaiem and Galt. A clash between these two visions seems inevitable but without either of them succeeding there will be no spring for their people.

In this book Otah and Maati are in their sixties. They have lived, lost and seen the world as they knew it move on. In other words they are not a happy couple of main characters. Both feel that their time to make peace with the world is limited and both feel very tired. They are a long way from the hot-blooded young men in A Shadow in Summer or even the more mature men in A Betrayal in Winter. Neither makes for a very sympathetic character in this book to be honest. Maati have become a very bitter man, unable to see or admit how ethically dubious binding an Andat really is, and ready to repeat the mistakes of the past. Otah spends a lot of time complaining about the burdens of being emperor. The choices he's faced with are not easy but at some level you have to agree with Eiah, he's willing to give up on large groups of people a little too easily.

The book is fairly slow paced, I guess that suits the main characters just fine. We're slowly rumbling towards to final confrontation, alternating between Otah's luxurious court life and Maati's existence as a renegade. Only in the last part of the book does the tale pick up speed. The Price of Spring contains some great bits of Realpolitik and carries a deep sense of loss for the world of Otah and Maati's youth. The portrayal of these two elderly man is very convincing. Despite that I can't help but feel that Abraham is done with the series. Tying of the stories of Otha and Maati's life makes for a satisfying end to the quartet but The Price of Spring did not strike me as the great tragedy An Autumn War was. Or any of the previous books.

The Price of Spring is a moving tale, and a fitting ending to the quartet. Fans of the series will absolutely want to read this. Although I am impressed with the quality of Abraham's work I must admit the tale didn't quite grab me like the previous books. Still the Long Price quartet is some of the best fantasy written in recent years. The Price of Spring and the entire series are highly recommended. Abraham has recently signed a contract with Orbit for a more classic epic fantasy series. I am very curious to see how that will turn out.

Book Details
Title: The Price of Spring
Author: Daniel Abraham
Publisher: Tor
Pages: 348
Year: 2009
Language: English
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-7653-1343-0
First published: 2009


  1. I was writing a comment on your review of A Shadow in Summer and noticed this review.

    One thing I don't think the series gets enough credit for is its focus on soft fantasy themes (e.g. social harmony, feminism, family, friendship, etc.), rather than typical epic fantasy themes (e.g. honor, virtue, loyalty, heroism, etc.). For this I think it holds much more in common with Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea or Robin Hobb's series than Abraham's friend GRRM's series.

    What about Abraham's new series The Dagger and the Coin? Does it too have a softer edge, or does it join the ranks of Martin, Abercrombie, Gemmell et al?

  2. I did reviews for the other two books too in 2008 (for another site) but I like to think I've improved a bit since then so I'll be reading those again sometime later in the year.

    It's not a bad comparison now that I think about it. Hobb might take her focus on character a bit further, especially in the Fitz books. I think you'll find the Dagger and Coin more typical epic fantasy. He does try to twist it a bit, the coin part of that series deals with banking. That's not something you come across often in epic fantasy. He also tries to avoid cliche characters in the story.

    The story is dealing more with a deadly threat to the world reawakening and more such standard epic fantasy stuff. It's not as brutal as Abercrombie, nor does it have the scope of Martin but he's definitely included some of what makes their books popular in his own. They are entertaining reads but looking at what is going on in Fantasy at the moment, they are not nearly as interesting as the Long Price books.