Mount Readmore Book Review, 2018 71/200
The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham
Finished on 5/13/2018
Description: All paths lead to war…
Marcus’ hero days are behind him. He knows too well that even the smallest war still means somebody’s death. When his men are impressed into a doomed army, staying out of a battle he wants no part of requires some unorthodox steps.
Cithrin is an orphan, ward of a banking house. Her job is to smuggle a nation’s wealth across a war zone, hiding the gold from both sides. She knows the secret life of commerce like a second language, but the strategies of trade will not defend her from swords.
Geder, sole scion of a noble house, has more interest in philosophy than in swordplay. A poor excuse for a soldier, he is a pawn in these games. No one can predict what he will become.
Falling pebbles can start a landslide. A spat between the Free Cities and the Severed Throne is spiraling out of control. A new player rises from the depths of history, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon’s Path-the path to war.
Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Low Fantasy, Financial Fantasy, Political Fantasy
War, Banking, and other Fun Things
I wanted to love this. Political Fantasy and Financial Fantasy are two of my favorite Fantasy sub-genres. This book’s worldbuilding sounded interesting when I read about it online: there are more than a dozen human sub-species coexisting on a fantasy planet trying to muddle through things together after the downfall of a Dragon empire. The book opened with a weird spider-magician, which really got my attention. The book’s prose was pleasantly readable- there was no purple prose, but sometimes the author used beautiful turns of phrases or distinctive images.
I’m gonna be upfront about this right from the start: this book never really clicked with me. All the potentially good things in this book never really paid off for me. Now to be clear this is not a negative review: I enjoyed reading this book. Not all books are entirely for all people; this book was not for me.
The worldbuilding was never fleshed out. All those dozen different human species might as well have been identical because their different-speciesness never mattered to the plot. Imagine Star Trek where the Vulcans were basically human, or Star Wars where Yoda was human. What’s the point of it being SciFi (or in this case Fantasy) if all the ‘aliens’ aren’t very alien?
The magic disappeared after the spider-magician prologue. I was looking forward to a book filled with lots of kooky magic, but instead I got a low-fantasy drama. The magic in this story is incredibly subtle- you can spot it hidden in between the lines of text if you’re clued in to it- but in the end I wanted more.
I’ll give the story credit. The Political Fantasy aspect of the story was pretty good. I liked the different scheming factions competing for power in a decaying empire. The Financial Fantasy aspects were pretty good to: one of the main characters is a banker, struggling to get by after her bank is destroyed.
I was never bored by the characters. Geder- the antihero/villain protagonist character- has an interesting plotline where he is thrust into a position of authority by people who hate him, hoping he will fail and shame himself. In order to maintain his honor he’s ‘forced’ to do detestable things. He was my ‘favorite,’ in as much as someone can find a detestable human being a favorite. Marcus, a slightly-damaged soldier-for-hire, was also interesting to read. The other two main characters were a little too one note tunes for my taste, but I never hated or was bored by them- they were just okay.
But in the end I didn’t click with this story. None of it was particularly memorable, besides Geder’s plotline. This book read sort of like the lite-beer version of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire.’ It was tasty to read, but in the end I wasn’t excited to read it. For me this was the sort of book I didn’t dislike enough to stop reading, so I kept reading even though I wasn’t really hooked.
The book does pick up towards the last 20%. And you know what? It’s unreasonable to say ‘you should push through the slow start’ when the first 80% of the book is the slow start. Nothing happens in vast swaths of the book. I really liked the two climaxes of the book: the first was a political scheming coming to fruition in a rebellion, and the second was an audit performed by the main bank on the bank branch Cithran set up. But honestly they just weren’t enough to validate reading such a massive tome.
Recommended with reservations. The author is a skilled craftsman and the book is high quality on a prose level. Just be aware that you have to push hard through the beginning and middle of the book to get to the end. I doubt I’ll read more in this series, not after how thoroughly meh this was for me. It was just too generic Fantasy for my taste.