The Dragon's Path, the fist novel in Daniel Abraham's Dagger and Coin quintet in 2011, not too long after it had been published. It was good epic fantasy novel that promised even more interesting things in the second book. Somehow I never got around to reading it though. Abraham is quite a prolific author, publishing under three pseudonyms and the third part of the series, The Tyrant's Law is already available. Past time I caught up with him again. Fortunately, the Dagger and Coin books are fast reads. I read this one in a week, alternating with Robert Silverberg's At Winter's End. The King's Blood proved to be a very enjoyable novel, I may have to get a copy of book three some time soon. After I reduce the too read list a bit further that is.
After uncovering the plot to assassinate the heir-apparent to the throne of Antea, Geder, a son of a minor noble, has been appointed protector of the crown prince. His star is to rise even faster when the King, rapidly approaching the end of his life, asks him to deal with the neighboring state of Asterlihold. They have been involved in the plot and must be dealt with. With his new religious adviser at his side, the inexperienced Geder soon finds out that war is inevitable.
Cithrin in the mean time, discovers that being accepted by the Medean bank is not everything she thought it would be. Too young to sign legally binding contracts, her every move is overseen by an employee of the bank; a thoroughly unpleasant woman named Pyk. It is not that much longer until she reaches her majority but the lack of responsibility is beginning to chafe. Cithrin decides to travel to the city of Carse, where the holding company of the bank is located. She intends to find a way to regain her control over the bank but soon finds herself in involved in another of the bank's projects.
Like the previous volume, The King's Blood is a highly readable and in most ways fairly traditional epic fantasy. Abraham refines and expands the cultures, races and characters he introduced in the first volume. There is more detail on the thirteen races that inhabit the world for instance, and even an appendix I mentioned missing in my review of the first volume. In between the action there is also quite a bit of attention for the history of the world. The disappeared dragons are mentioned on a number of occasions although their role in the story remains unclear for the moment. Where in the first book the world the author created was still a bit sketchy, it is beginning to feel properly fleshed out in the this second volume.
Geder again is one of the more interesting characters in the book. He is utterly unpredictability. At times he behaves like a hurt little boy, but he can also be ruthless, understanding and caring. He makes enemies without realizing it, rationalizes the most brutal decisions and yet remains completely naive when it comes to the political realities of the realm he is trying to govern or the perception other powerful players have of him. All things considered, he is a pretty scary man, but at the same time he is sympathetic at some level. What I especially like about him is the difference in public perception and the reality of his relationship with his religious adviser.
The focus of Cithrin's story line has shifted a bit from financial manipulations to a more adventure oriented plot. With her hands tied when it comes to banking, she is exploring other avenues to regain control over her life. Her uncanny ability to see how money flows is not quite as noticeable in this book, although she does tend to think in terms of trade and investment, even when looking at political mattes. It is a limitation she doesn't seem to be aware of. One she will no doubt have to overcome in later books.
The activities of Cithrin and Geder drive the story but Abraham include a number of more mature characters as well. The conservative nobleman Dawson is forced into a difficult position when his views of society and religion clash with Geder's new order of things. He is not a man who bends easily as his family will find out at their expense. Dawson doesn't change much over the course of the book, his actions are highly predictable, but his wife Clara, also a point of view character, promises to be more interesting in the next volumes.
The other mature point of view character is the mercenary captain Marcus Wester. I must admit I didn't like him very much. Marcus is a man haunted by his past, he feels responsible for the death of his family and is now trying to make up for it by protecting Cithrin. Which is not working very well as he has left the city to go to Carse. Marcus wallows in his guilt and does a number of stupid things when he hears rumors that might mean Cithrin is in trouble. I think I can see what Abraham has in store for this character but in this novel, I thought he was annoying. Fortunately he seems to have found a purpose again that the end of it.
Abraham does not intend something hugely original with this series. His Long Price quartet is much more challenging in that respect. That being said, Abraham has a control over the plot that is rare in epic fantasy. He seems to know exactly where he's going and how to get there. No meandering side plots, dozens of point of view characters or long rambles on the customs, culture or history of particular places. All of it is worked in to the story to the extent it is needed and not beyond. It's an ability many a fantasy author should be jealous of.
Title: The King's Blood
Author: Daniel Abraham
First published: 2012