A couple of weeks back, still in an effort to catch up on books and series that I missed out on, I read and reviewed Daniel Abraham’s Shadow and Betrayal, the UK omnibus edition of the first two volumes in his Long Price Quartet. Now, to conclude the series, I’ve moved on to Seasons of War, another omnibus containing the last two volumes of the series. This book both ramps up the action and excitement to the max and brings it all back down to an emotional finale. In what seems to me one of the best series of recent years, Abraham thrills, captivates, saddens and entrances us to unexpected levels. Shadow and Betrayal was good, Seasons of War is better.
The poets and their magical andat have protected the cities of the Khaiem against their rivals in Galt for generations. Otah, Khai of the Winter City of Machi, has tried for years to prepare his people for a future in which the andat can no longer be safely harnessed, but his warnings have been ignored. And now it’s too late.
A ruthless, charismatic Galtic general believes he has found a war to strip the andat of their power. If he is wrong Galt will be destroyed. If he is right, the Khaiem will fall. Only one thing is certain: conflict is inevitable, and Otah and his old friend and enemy the disgraced poet, Maati, must fight a desperate battle to protect their cities from slaughter
These two men, bound together by shadow and betrayal, will bring the world to the edge of cataclysm unlike anything either side has imagined.
For if the cost of war is high, the price of peace may be unimaginable...
An Autumn War
Just like between A Shadow in Summer and Betrayal in Winter, the we jump a few years from A Betrayal in Winter to An Autumn War. Things haven’t changed much in Machi or the rest of the cities of Khaiem but things are beginning to brew pretty hotly in Galt. For the first time in the series there is a Galtic point of view from which the story is told - General Balasar is a man hellbent on destroying the Khaiem and what they stand for. I previously talked of the lack of wars and such in my review of Shadow and Betrayal, saying that though it wasn’t present, it was obvious that it was coming, and as you can guess from the title, it does come. And it comes on a greater scale than was imaginable, altering things and carrying heavy implications.
That is essentially what Daniel Abraham does in this third volume of The Long Price: he takes the cities of the Khaiem which he exposed, detailed, even protected in some cases, in the first two novels and turns it on its head. And he does all this with tremendous style, as I’ve come to expect from Abraham by now, making sure to stay close to the characters, making sure that the full weight of the consequences are felt, pulling characters from one side of the conflict to the other, showing their fear, their remorse, courage, determination and wisdom (or lack thereof) - effectively telling a much more personal, well-grounded story, that deals with worldwide-trauma at a human level. The only complaint some readers might have is the absence of direct showing of battle scenes, since apart from the one involving the main character, Otah (quite short scene), and one where almost every POV character is involved (still rarely recounting actual fighting), Abraham prefers going about it in a circumspect way, in essence only dealing with the outcomes of the action through dialogue and little else.
By this point in the series, we’ve known the characters for a very long time and it’s a joy to come back to them for the third round. An Autumn sees the return of every major character from A Betrayal in Winter, minus a couple of exceptions, the arrival of new blood, it has been fourteen years after all and people have moved around or been born, and there is even the return of a character not seen since A Shadow in Summer. Our main protagonists aren’t getting any younger, and Abraham does a good job of making the characters act according to the growing amount of significant events they’ve lived through. Each appropriately bears the his or her past faults, as well as their merits, and as readers it is clear to us how the various happenings of their lives are affecting them now. In the end it all comes back to what now appears to me as being Abraham’s greatest skill: telling a story as vast in scope as he wishes, but always with the characters, the people, in the forefront.
Let’s move on to...
The Price of Spring
Since everything changed dramatically in An Autumn War, it stand to reason that The Price of Spring is about living with the changes and surviving the aftermath of the war described in the previous novel. It’s hard to say anything too specific about what the reactions to the events of previous book are without going into spoilers for it, but it’s fair to say that characters are once again set against each other, the world is still going through a seemingly endless chain of crises - all of which needing to be dealt with by the main characters - there is still the threat of war, and so on. There is no greater example of Abraham’s dealing with the consequences of things he set in motion as this book since that is what it is all about. Then there is also tying all the plot threads he unravelled in the first three books up to conclude his Long Price Quartet and I think it’s safe to say that if nothing else, The Price of Spring is a satisfying end to what can only be qualified as an powerfully endearing series.
More importantly, I think, than only the conclusion to the series is the farewell to all the characters we as readers grew to care for and it’s fantastic to be with them for one last tour de force. Just like between all the other novels in the series we’ve let the characters simmer for a decade and a half. Also like in An Autumn War, the same characters (for the most part) are back with even a character making a reappearance after having been gone since the end of A Betrayal in Winter. If Abraham was good at making the characters feel the weight of their age in the previous book, he does so with even greater skill in this one. Chief among character interactions is still the relationship between Otah and Maati who, at one time or another, have been best friends, dire enemies or something in between. Obviously, because of the events of An Autumn War, they’re now back in rival position, if only to add complexity, duality and tension to the last book of the series.
The only real disappointment some might find with The Price of Spring is the overall anti-climatic feel it has to it. An Autumn War was the “big” book of the series in terms of action and tension so it’s inevitable that those looking for more of that will feel let down by this book. Instead of being like its predecessor, The Price of Spring is the resolution of the series, a chance to see a little beyond the heavy events of war. At times it almost appears to be an epilogue of sorts to the series. Don’t get me wrong though, it still has plenty to offer. And then there is the conclusion to book itself, and by extension the series. Whatever we may say about a book or a series, what it comes down to a lot of times is how good the ending is. In this case it is truly one of the most touching, best tied-together ending I’ve had the chance to read. It brings everything together emotionally, thematically and plot-wise so superbly that one can only look back and treat this book and the series it is a part of as the work of a master.
It’s a sad fact that Abraham, which has here so amazed me with his talent and skill, has had so little popularity that his US publisher, Tor, will not be publishing his net series. Thankfully, his UK publisher, Orbit, to whom we owe the two omnibus editions of The Long Price, has picked up the series entitled The Dagger and the Coin. Before though, I cannot recommend The Long Price Quartet enough. It’s a series of only a few that has managed to genuinely move me with its hauntingly vivid characters, incredibly rich and passionate world, compelling plot and prose nothing short of excellent. Purchase this series any way you can - in omnibus form or individually, it does not matter - it is sure to be worth it.
An Autumn War Rating: 5 out of 5
The Price of Spring Rating: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Reading Age: 16 and up
Daniel Abraham's Website: http://bram452.livejournal.com/
Buy Seasons of War:
Amazon.com (An Autumn War)
Amazon.com (The Price of Spring)