The King's Blood Paperback – May 22 2012
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"Abraham builds on The Dragon's Path to create and sustain a rich, satisfyingly complex epic fantasy." -- Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) on The King's Blood.
"[Daniel] Abraham just keeps getting better and better... [He] belongs in the first rank of today's fantasists."―George R.R. Martin, New York Times bestselling author of A Game of Thrones
"You have to admire ace storyteller Abraham's skill at building plausible alternate worlds, a trade much practiced, but not often so well, ever since the days of Tolkien and the Shire ... One of the many strengths of Abraham's storytelling is that he allows a little moral ambiguity to curl around the toes of his characters ... Another trademark romp in the otherworld, and a lot of fun."
"Well worthwhile; curl up with this one!"―RT Book Reviews
About the Author
Daniel Abraham is the author of the critically-acclaimed Long Price Quartet. He has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, and won the International Horror Guild award. He also writes as MLN Hanover and (with Ty Franck) James S.A. Corey. He lives in New Mexico.
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Top Customer Reviews
The first half of the book was a snoozer and while the second half did have some interesting twists and developments I just don't feel myself falling into the pages and being absorbed by the writing. I think one of the problems is I don't like most of the characters and the writing hasn't allowed my mind to visualize the setting..
I will keep reading the series hoping it redeems itself but my high expectations have been doused with water.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Speaking of the main characters. They were the best thing about the first one. Daniel builds the promises of The Dragon's Path, and makes them even stronger than before. Characters morph and change because of the events of this novel. New relationships are forged in a believable manor. These are some of the best characters that I have ever read from fantasy. They are not one note heroes and villains. One chapter towards the end made me want to put the book down out of fear, of what was about to happen!
This whole series has felt like Daniel is mulling over the issue of the Dagger vs. the Coin. Which is the same thing as butter vs. guns. What you have here is superb characters, exciting mythology, tense action, and metaphors that will keep you thinking well after the last page has been turned.
This all builds to an amazing climax. I won't give anything away here. Let me just say that the finale (which is long) is as absorbing as the best of Game of Thrones. This series does feel a little like Martins. If you are looking for books similar then I would say look no further. I would also say that if you are frustrated with "Games" to many characters then don't fear. This book had only 6 point of view characters. It seemed that the first book stood in the shadow of that series. For my opinion this book made it stand shoulder to shoulder with it.
The story continues some of the basic storyline, but offers up a lot of new plot. Geder Palliako is the new hero of Antea based on the events of the prior book, and here he continues his meteoric rise, becoming even more powerful as Antea embarks on war with its neighbor. With this rise, however, he gains powerful enemies who question not only his goals but those of the strange priests he brought back with him. Cithrin has managed to avoid prison or worse based on her deception that allowed her to create a new branch of the Medean Bank, but now chafes at the limitations her "official" status now brings. Dawson, the arch-conservative noble, continues to fight for his image of what the kingdom should be and damn the consequences, while his wife Clara tries to hold their family together despite those consequences. And Kit has decided it is time for him to throw off his new life as a player and bring an end once and for all to the spreading evil of the spider goddess, which leads to a hard choice for Marcus.''
There are also pirates, assassination attempts, battles, dragon graves, conspiracies, and betrayals aplenty. Which makes it sound like there is a lot more of the typical "action" in this book than in the first, and I suppose that is true. But to be honest, The King's Blood didn't really feel all that "action-y." And I don't mean that in any bad sense whatsoever. I think what happens is the writing is so smooth and engaging, the characters so intriguing in themselves and in their relationships with each other, that the action just kind of slides by without jumping out at you or feeling like a frenetic action movie. This doesn't mean the novel is any less compelling. Just as with The Dragon's Path, I zipped through The King's Blood in a single long sitting and didn't feel a moment's lag. ''
Characterization, as mentioned, remains a strong suit and the multiple-point-of-view structure does a nice job of enhancing the characterization by not only offering us looks inside each character's head but also seeing how the other characters think of them. As I said in my review of the first book, the point of view also often gives the reader a more intimate connection with the character, an almost kneejerk empathy (at least for a while), which is only strengthened by seeing their actions from their point of view since few "evil" characters see themselves as evil. This makes reading point of views from someone like Dawson, for instance, all the more interesting as it's hard not to detest what he's fighting for (the "right" for everyone to stay in their place) while also admiring his willingness to die for those wrong beliefs and his sincere belief that they are to everyone's benefit. On the other hand, it's also impossible not to fault his rigidness or his certainty ''
The problem with "certainty" is one of the themes of this book; we see it from several views and few of them flattering. As when Kit tells Marcus:''
"Truth and lies, doubt and certainty. I haven't found them to be what I thought they were. I dislike certainty because it feels like truth, but it isn't."''
Another theme that seems to run through is the idea of hidden layers and of how the past, as Faulkner once said, is not even past, a concept we're introduced to on the very first page:''
Camnipol was older than the kingdom it ruled. Every age had left its mark here, every generation growing on the ruins of the old until the earth below the dark-cobbled streets was not soil, but the wreckage of what had come before.''A theme picked up by Dawson later on:''There are no clean starts... Just as there are no clean endings. Everything is built like Camnipol; one damn thing atop another atop another reaching down into the bones of the world. Even the forgotten things are back there somewhere, shaping who and what we are now.''
The other points of view beyond Dawson's, to varying degrees, also contain this complexity. Geder, for example, both horrifies the reader and engenders pity. Marcus is mostly admirable, and yet also, to a lesser degree, gives pause to the reader at times with some disquieting actions. All the characters are wholly engaging and compelling, with the possible exception of Kit, and that mostly because we just don't see much of him and what we do see is pretty singularly focused. What I especially like about them is their range, something rare in fantasies where even when we get multiple points of view they tend to be relatively interchangeable storylines. Here we see the typical court intrigue and some battle scenes, but we also see the bank workings (such as repos and foreclosures) and some more domestic troubles, which are no less important than the political ones to the characters they happen to. Just as strong as the individual characterizations are the portrayals of the relationships between them. The standouts here are the marriage between Dawson and Clara and the partnership between Marcus and Yardem (and here I confess that nearly every time Yardem spoke to Marcus, I heard it in the tone and voice of Zoe from Firefly. Every time.)''
The worldbuilding is perhaps a bit more fully formed in The King's Blood, which is not a major surprise. We get a bit more on the differences among the races (some of this in a glossary at the end). Even better, we get a bit more history with regard to the Dragon Empire that began the whole thing. We also get to see more of the world as several of our characters travel to new places. ''
The prose is still not as stylized or poetic as Abraham's LONG PRICE QUARTET, but I'd say its closer to that style than The Dragon's Path was. Having read both books in single sittings thanks as much to the fluidity of the prose as much to the plot, I had a sense (though it's been a year since I read the first book) that I found more lines in this one that struck me as particularly lyrical or well crafted.''
This has been a good year so far for fantasy, and The King's Blood is another in the list of fine fantasy coming out. It's going to be a tough top ten this year, I'm thinking. Highly recommended
Daniel Abraham's debut series had a lot of readers and critics praising his original premise and that did get fans excited for his next series which was a move back to the favored pseudo-European setting. This series was also going to be an amalgam of some classic literature as well as genre favorites. The first book in the series really gave the readers a nice look into the world created by the author wherein dragons ruled a long time ago and created the thirteen races. The main characters were introduced and enough intrigue was created.
With the King's Blood, we are once again swept in to the world of the Dragons. Cithrin has been successful with her moves and in setting up a front for the Medean bank in costal city of Porte Olivia what she didn't bargain for, are the chains the bank would set on her in the form of a clerk who cross-checks her each and every move. Geder Palliako never thought his star would ever rise so high but as the royal regent he now holds the most powerful court position and enjoys a good comfort level with his ward prince Aster. He however does not know that his ascent has only begun and further events will propel him into the limelight unsuited for him. Dawson and Clara Killiam are further faced with trials as they weave familial and political situations and try to do the right thing. Lastly there's Master Kit who remembers his past life and decides that the time has come for him to step back in his earlier life and accomplish what he first set out to do.
Thus begins the second chronicle of the Dagger and the Coin, the author has raised the stakes in this book by further evolving the characters from the roles that they were assigned or deemed to follow. Characterization has always been Daniel Abraham's forte and he absolutely shines in this book as well. Geder, Cithrin, Dawson, Clara and Marcus are all rounded individuals however the author completely immerses the reader in their thoughts and actions and fleshes them out to such an extent that it becomes harder to differentiate between their good and bad sides. Particularly Geder and Dawson, these two characters are ones whose actions can particularly viewed in a horrific light however the author manages to make the reader connect with them and particularly create doubt in the reader's minds.
This book's theme is about the folly of certainty and the actions based on it. There are a few lines in the book that highlight it well:
"Truth and lies, doubt and certainty. I haven't found them to be what I thought they were. I dislike certainty because it feels like the truth, but it isn't. If justice is based on certainty, but certainty is not the truth, atrocities become possible. We're seeing the first of them now. More will come".
The author very conveniently plays with this theme and it is largely prevalent in the lives of Geder and Dawson, both of whom have the most upheavals in this book. Cithrin and Marcus however are not entirely exempt from this but their journey is more of an introspective one that makes them realize what they wish to do with their lives from this point forward. The POV count is also kept the same however the next book might see the introduction of a new character or two. In this regard the author has learnt a thing or two from his mentor and friend George R.R. Martin, namely the pitfalls in introducing more and more POV characters thereby complicating the story threads. The author keeps a tight rein on the storyline and keeps it focused with the help of the limited number of POVs.
Lastly the pacing of this book is much smoother than the first one and also with the addition of the taxonomy of the races, the classification seem to help the readers in understanding the differences in the races prevalent. The only negative for me in this book would be that this book lacks the EPIC feel that this series is supposed to be about, as right now it's more focused on the action of the few that will lead to repercussions for the many. Perhaps the author intends to change this in the last three books but I would like the epic part of the story to begin as well so we can truly get to see this story come alive and discover more about the dragons and other mysteries of this world. The magic as well as the world setting if further explored will add to awesomeness of the series.
CONCLUSION: Daniel Abraham has crafted a worthy sequel and perhaps a better book in terms of plot, characters and pace. All in all The King's Blood was the first 2012 fantasy that satisfied my expectations and will figure in my year end lists for sure.
Abraham does a great job of creating interesting and morally ambiguous male characters. In particular, Dawson and Gerder are well-detailed and elicit pity, distaste, and compassion in turn. Few authors have a similar talent and often end up with simply unlikable leads, so Abraham is to be commended for his work. Unfortunately, though, I can't say the same about his female characters. Cithrin - whose storyline I was most interested in from the first book - seems incomplete at best. Her personality whipsaws wildly between that of a troubled and immature girl and a savvy, calculating, and experienced banker based on Abraham's need. The latter persona in particular strikes me as deeply inconsistent with her background and behavior (even accounting for talent and training) and the choices she makes regarding Geder seem arbitrary at best and largely unbelievable. I had a very hard time conceiving that a survivor of the slaughter of her city would be sympathetic to Geder at all, even if she didn't believe he specifically ordered the event. Similarly, Clara is a much more interesting character but is largely sidelined as a foil to her husband and she fails to develop dramatically during the course of the book.
I also think the novel would benefit significantly from greater focus on a smaller range of characters. Abraham's world-building is solid and he's created a vast set of opportunities to explore: both the sheer number of races and the incorporation of dragons into the prior history of the world provide any number of possibilities. Yet the structure of the book makes it difficult to delve deeply into any of them. I thought Abraham had accomplished the impossible when he made me care about the details of banking in The Dragon's Path. However, the bank is relegated to a much less significant role here, and we jump back and forth so frequently between Porte Oliva, the conflict in Antea, Marcus and Kit's quests, and Cithrin's own involvement with the Medean Bank that it becomes difficult to invest oneself in any one storyline. Just when I become interested and we start delving into the layered backstory, I'm whisked away to a different plot. Personally, I found the Antean conflict between Geder and Kalliam most intriguing, but it, too, was brought up short earlier than I preferred. I recognize the influence of George R R Martin here but would have the same advice for him.
I have high hopes for the third book. Abraham has certainly created an intriguing world and I'm curious to see where everyone ends up within it. However, I'd ask him to go back to basics a bit when constructing the next work.
Pretty much a great story in every way.
Pacing is excellent. Characters travel a great deal, time passes, but you don't really need to spend 15 pages with one character on a sailboat. And thank heavens there aren't too many characters so you can look forward to something actually happening in the near future.
Characters are great.
Cithrin. When she shines she does it right, unexpectedly and with intelligence. I love a smart woman. Too bad modern bankers/banks are more like the creepy spider priests ("The economy is great, this bank is solvent despite its 71 trillion dollar derivative exposure, LISTEN TO MY VOICE"). On the contrary, the Medean bank and Cithrin, whose loans are based on accumulated wealth and whose investments grow the real economy, should set up a branch here in NYC.
(SPOILER It is kind of disturbing that Cithrin seems to be able to stomach the dude who oversaw the death of an entire city, man woman and child! Kind of makes me not like her so much.)
Marcus. Hilarious and awesome and smart. This is how an aimless/fallen hero character is done.
Geder. Perhaps the most disturbing character in any book I have ever read. Seriously, the last book made me want to cry and vomit. This one has a couple shocking scenes with him, but nothing like the last one. Nonetheless, he is getting creepier as things progress, especially since the author goes out of his way to show a human side to Geder whenever possible.
Dawson. I liked this guy way more in this book. He is a badass. He also proves that he isn't just a racist and elitist bastard trying to keep the nobles on top. Well he still is those things, but he isn't a hypocrite and he cares for his country more than his own life or family, which he obviously cares for a great deal.
Clara. I usually hate court politics in fantasy books, but it isn't so bad learning about it from Clara. At first I kept picturing Ned Stark's wife from the GRRM books, but by the end of this book she became fully fleshed human, and awesome. I actually like her and want to read more of her even though she doesn't fight or run a bank or run a country or anything that makes the other characters more interesting.
The characters are all written so consistently throughout. This book should serve as a shining example of how to write characters. Get their personality out in the dialogue. Keep the self-introspection concise and to the point, don't repeat the same crap ad naseum.
In fact the prose is so tight, yet really creates an immersive experience, that it will actually be hard to read other books.
Finally, the plot is excellent. Lots of events in this book. There is no single climax, but several interesting turning points that occur throughout the novel. And despite the pacing, the plot does not seem rushed. We are just lucky enough to be at the right places at the right times to actually enjoy the story without getting bogged down in boring mundane stuff.