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Gesture and posture convey as much information as spoken words in Abraham's impressive first novel, a fantasy set in a world where poets create and bind powerful shape-shifting creatures called "andat." The Empire hangs on, literally, by a thread; the cloth industry depends on the ability of andat Seedless to magically remove seeds from cotton plants to keep commerce flowing and the barbarians in check. Seedless, who can also remove unborn children from their mother's womb, aims to drive his poet-creator, Heshai-kvo, mad with grief. A love triangle develops among a threesome—Heshai's apprentice, Maati; Itani, a laborer with a past; and the beautiful scribe Liat—as they unknowingly assist the andat in his plot to abort a wanted child. When Liat's master, Amat Kyaan, uncovers the plan, Amat must flee and live as a bookkeeper in a brothel. The complex characters all struggle to navigate a path between their duty to their Empire and to themselves. A blurb from George R.R. Martin will help alert his fans to this promising newcomer. (Mar.)
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Otah is a good soldier; otherwise, why would he be in charge of training a motley array of boys just learning arms? Quickly his challenges increase, as a magical menace out of legend threatens the Summer Cities. Factor in sheer human folly, and one understands why Otah has his hands full. Apart from its well-developed protagonist, this first volume of a projected tetralogy has a somewhat conventional plot. What make it a distinguished fantasy debut are Abraham's command of language, which recalls even if it does not equal that of Jack Vance, and his facility at creating fully realized settings, such as the bustling seaport Saraykhet, which exerts a particularly strong appeal to the apparently growing audience for fantasy seasoned with a dash or more of saltwater. The direction of The Long Price Quartet is hard to determine from this first volume, but after finishing it, more than a few readers won't especially care, not as long as Abraham just gives them more, as promised. Roland Green
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