I know I know, THE KING’S BLOOD isn’t the first book in Daniel Abraham’s THE DAGGER AND COIN quintet; it’s #2. I didn’t take many notes back when I read the first one, so I’ll be lumping in some thoughts from THE DRAGON’S PATH here too. So, be warned, readers, that means there will be some mild SPOILERS about what happens in Book 1 in this review. If you don’t want anything spoiled, see you next time. Unless I review THE TYRANT’s LAW, which has much bigger spoilers about what transpires in Book #2.
Oh look, cover art for the books so that anyone who doesn’t want to read spoilers has time to find the exit.
Book #1, which won’t be addressed in great detail here.
THE KING’s BLOOD, 501 pages, pub. 1/1/2013, Orbit
This review is more about my thoughts on certain aspects of the book rather than a summary of what it’s about.
We see more of Geder’s rise to power/turn to the dark side in KING’S BLOOD. He’s still the sweet, geeky kid spurned by his peers, only now he’s getting some real power with seemingly no consequences. It’s making for a horrifying character change, but even though he’s got the makings of a train wreak, I can’t look away from the carnage. The last bits of free will he has are withering away due to Basrahip’s presence. It’s creepy seeing him become a mix of addicted and reliant on Basrahip and his “gift.” The stalker angle of Geder with Cithrin is going to make for some interesting complications. At this point I still want to like him, but am beginning to worry that I won’t be able to forgive the corruption.
Cithrin still rubs me the wrong way, but I see potential in her. I want to like her. I like her craftiness and feel her annoyance/exasperation with the interferences she encounters with her bank. Pyk Usterhall coming to “mind” her was amusing, and the deal struck with the Komme is interesting (definitely better once she has the mentorship in Book #3).
Dawson is one I’m torn on. I like how he’s written because I feel like I get where he’s coming from even if I don’t agree with all of his values and/or beliefs. But he gets a bit obsessive and overdone on this righteous crusade against the obvious evil of the spider goddess’ minions. It gets a bit hard to suspend my disbelief over some of the things he does or doesn’t do. Trying to be as un-spoilerish as possible, Dawson’s arc is ok with me and I’m more interested in what will happen from this side of things in Book #3.
Wester doesn’t seem that much different from Book #1. We see him show a little bit of his vaunted leadership skills during a skirmish with a pirate compound, but it’s not a big fight that leaves you wiggling the loose tooth you felt from that punch. I love his partnership with Yardem, so SPOILER ALERT the end of this book makes me feel all the sad feels. But they’re both big enough characters that I don’t believe Abraham would leave these two at loose ends (at the time of this review, I’ve read #3 and yes, Abraham has a resolution for them). I’m glad Wester reconnects with Kit and is set to start a new chapter in Book #3, because the daddy issues he’s having with Cithrin are ugh. I’m hoping they address that in the future so that there isn’t an unresolved tension floating for the next three books.
One of the things I’m enjoying the most about Abraham’s quintet is the diversity in the worldbuilding. When he writes about the thirteen races of humanity, we’re not talking about only colors. In fact, he doesn’t mean “color” at all–Firstblood to Kurtadam isn’t the same as White to Asian. These aren’t thirteen kinds of humans dressed up in different costumes. Except, wait, they are because the other twelve are crafted from the Firstbloods. In all seriousness, the races work for me without feeling forced or gimmicky. They are all sort of humanoid races, but each is given their own look and culture so they feel distinct.
So far, the worldbuilding is holding me in the series more than the plot. I’m curious to see how Abraham will stretch this story out over three more books (still felt this way after THE TYRANT’S LAW too) because the baseline plot seems to revolve around the dragons awakening and the spider goddess being defeated. By the end of Book 2, there’s still so much unknown about either the dragons or the goddess. But, there’s some great character development going on as Abraham sets up who I think are going to be the pivotal characters going forward.
THE DRAGON’S PATH was a bit confusing in the early going because there’s a lot of worldbuilding. We get a lot of places and races/cultures being introduced from the start, but Abraham does a good job “reminding” the reader of where you are and/or what a particular race looks like. It helps that we’ve got a decent spread of characters as our main POVs (Wester, Geder, Dawson- Firstblood, Cithrin-Cinnae (part), Yardem-Tralgu), and several supporting characters representing more of the races later on.
I’m divided on how I feel about the history and the dragon emperors. The history passages quoted in the story from “books” are written to read like old historical texts, so in a sense that’s clever…but it also makes them boring and tedious to read. They’re a bit more manageable here than I thought they were in THE DRAGON’S PATH, partly because Geder’s already discovered the spider goddess and isn’t reading quite so much.
In contrast, I like the bank system and how economics play out in the world. The trade guilds and banks were a part of the worldbuilding in Joe Abercrombie’s THE FIRST LAW trilogy (which I adore) that I liked a lot, and the system in DAGGER AND COIN is different and complex, but not so much that I tune out and skip over it. Math makes my eyeballs bleed. The banking system and challenges it produces keeps me going on the Cithrin story (in this book, I like her more by Book #3) because her alcoholic tendencies irritates me on an irrational level.
The dialogue flows for the most part, and has a few gem quotes that naturally I forgot to mark down. The only jarring part is that some of the slang and cursing reads a bit modern for my perceived time frame of the story. “Lick my ass” seems a bit present-day for an essentially sword and sorcery, middleish fantasy albeit with a modern flair.
The plot/pacing works overall, but I think they’re a bit disjointed when looked at together. The pacing feels alright in the moment, but when I look back over the book I’m left wondering how it’s going to take 5 books in total to expose the priests and kill the spider goddess. Then again, we’ve got Geder’s abrupt rise to power, societal upheaval, and more war brewing. Master Kit is absent for most of this story, but he returns near the end to pick up the thread and I’m excited to see how he and Wester will carry their end of the spider goddess plot.
A bit ramble-y, this will teach me to take better notes.