Thursday, May 12, 2011

Book Review: The Dragon's Path

The Dragon’s Path
The Dagger and the Coin Book 1

Daniel Abraham
Orbit 2011

There are two ways to meet the world.  You go out with a blade in your hand or else a purse” (526).

The Dragon’s Path is the beginning of an interesting tale.  Following multiple viewpoints through a world that is preparing for great change, this particular story spent a little bit too much time on introductory elements and only got into the meat of the tale near the end.  The characterizations are very well done – rich, well-rounded and always an energizing mix of likeable and dislikable.  It is hard to get entirely comfortable with any of the characters, which fit the uncertainty and uneasiness of the world they live in. 

There are two main threads of the story, corresponding to the two “ways to meet the world:” one of commerce and the other of war.  Both threads contain characters who are growing into their worlds, coming from the isolation of childhood, education and obscurity into the arena of adulthood, application of learning and recognition.  The first thread of the tale starts with a doomed caravan guarded by an aging hero, Captain Marcus Wester, his lieutenant Yardem and a troupe of actors pretending to be mercenaries.  In the caravan is Cithrin, a young banker’s ward who has been charged with the task of smuggling a vast amount of wealth (in the form of silks, gems, spices and tobacco) from the city Vanai, which on the verge of war.  This particular strand develops the world of the commerce as Cithrin plunges into the risky and intricate world of banking, juggling issues of trust, honesty, legality, opportunity and necessity.  She becomes both betrayer and betrayed; pawn and free agent.

Similarly, the other thread of the tale follows Geder, who like Cithrin, is pulled to and fro by the events of his world, sometimes seeming to direct his own fate, other times fully at the mercy of those around him.  His tale is that of the sword.  He begins as the target of every joke made by his company, which is a part of the forces of King Simeon.  After they take Vanai, he becomes a convenient sacrificial lamb to one side of the political forces struggling to gain the upper hand with the King.  Yet from the moment he is given any sort of power, his choices keep unexpectedly changing his own fortunes, as well as the stakes of the whole conflict.
Abraham plays his cards very close to his chest.  Throughout the novel, I found myself uncertain as to where he was going with some of his elements.  It appears that Geder is shaping up to be the villain, but it is possible he will realize the danger of the road he has chosen.  It also appears that the pair of Cithrin and Marcus Wester will be in a position to stand against Geder and the sinister forces he has unknowingly loosed in the world.  However, Abraham kept me guessing through The Dragon’s Path, and I am sure he has some further reversals in the continuing tale.

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