Guest Review: THE KING’S BLOOD by Daniel Abraham (Orbit)

AbrahamD-D&C2-KingsBloodBook Two in the Dagger & the Coin series

War and madness cast shadows over the lands dragons once ruled.

Geder Palliako’s star is rising. He is a hero of Antea, protector to the crown prince, and darling of the court. But storms from his past are gathering, and with them, a war that will change everything.

Cithrin bel Sarcour founded a powerful bank on stolen wealth, forged papers, and ready blades. Now every move she makes is observed, recorded, and controlled. Unless Cithrin can free herself from her gilded cage, the life she made will be for naught; war may provide just the opportunity she needs.

An apostate priest sees the hidden hand behind all: a long-buried secret of the dragon empire threatens everything humanity has built. An age of madness and death approaches, with only a few doomed heroes to stand in its way.

Reviewed by Ryan Frye

I read The King’s Blood hot on the heels of finishing The Dragon’s Path. The previous volume had felt like a tasty appetizer hinting at further tasteful courses, and I was hungry for more. I’m happy to report that this second volume provided me with pretty much everything I’d hoped for in a follow-up novel.

Thinking back to my impressions of The Dragon’s Path, I’d felt the opening volume left me wanting better world building, and a deeper exploration of the various races that populate the world. I’m happy to report that Abraham has now provided both of these. The former is accomplished by having a few of the POV characters drawn to different parts of the world. It was nice to explore new locales and to get new, fresh perspectives on familiar locales from different characters. The result is that this fantasy world begins to feel more real, alive and bustling. I loved it.

I also hoped to gain a better understanding of the thirteen different races that populate the world. Again, Abraham delivered. He managed this by not only providing deeper character depth to the various racially diverse characters already placed within the narrative, but also by having the story and said characters encounter and interact with further races. I was impressed by how Abraham seemed to set out deliberately to further develop his world and its inhabitants, and he accomplished that goal in such a way that felt natural, organic and certainly unforced. Furthermore, there is a fun coda at the end of this volume that explores the origins of each race, written by a long dead (and highly biased) scholar, which not only further fleshes out the various races, but provides greater insight into the history of this world.

While The King’s Blood accomplished a lot on the world-building front, it certainly didn’t skimp on the plot development either. Each of the POV characters from the previous volume are back, and the key change from the previous volume is that Geder has a new, politically-charged role that plays a major part in the events of this volume. This new role for Geder leads to some great new plot developments, and some very interesting interactions between major characters, thrusting Dawson onto the front lines of a war and Cithrin into Geder’s path. These new developments pay immediate dividends, but also hint towards further returns in subsequent volumes.

My biggest surprise of The King’s Blood was that I found myself rooting for Dawson, a character I wasn’t a huge fan of in The Dragon’s Path. It is a major testament to Abraham’s knack for characterization that he can create such major swings, and put characters in positions where a once-loathed character can become someone the reader roots for.

Though The King’s Blood does so much right, and even improves upon the qualities of the previous novel, I nevertheless did find a couple items frustrating. First, a couple of the POV characters made some uncharacteristically stupid decisions. This occurred primarily with Dawson and, to a lesser degree, with Marcus Wester. In Dawson’s case, the decision he made seemed super dumb given how savvy he is when it comes to political shenanigans. I can’t talk directly about it without spoiling major plot developments, but suffice it to say that I was disappointed. There was also a situation with Cithrin and Geder in which the two characters seemed thrust together unnecessarily for the sake of a particular plot development. Given the circumstances at hand, there really was no need for Cithrin to be there, and I hate having to suspend my disbelief because an author forced a plot development in a clunky manner.

Despite these minor gripes, this was still a very solid effort from Abraham. The Dagger and the Coin series is shaping up quite nicely. This is a series that features an engaging world, complex characters and a gripping plot that is sure to entertain many fantasy lovers. The King’s Blood takes the series into exciting directions and leaves the world and the characters changed in some very interesting ways. I’m very much looking forward to the next installment.

*

Also on CR: Interview with Daniel Abraham (2012); Reviews of Shadows & Betrayal, Seasons of War and The Dragon’s Path — Stefan’s and Ryan’s

The Dagger & the Coin Series: The Dragon’s PathThe King’s BloodThe Tyrant’s LawThe Widow’s HouseThe Spider’s War (March 2016)

AbrahamD-Dagger&CoinSeries

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