Monday, June 11, 2012

Book review: "The King's Blood" by Daniel Abraham

Last week I finished reading "The King's Blood" by Daniel Abraham. I found "The Dragon's Path", first book in "The Dagger and the Coin" series, great and interesting, so I had big expectations from its sequel. Even more so after reading few praising reviews. I expected a broadening of setting, start of over-all series' plot, maybe new characters... But in the end, I was left disappointed.

"The King's Blood" follows pretty much immediately after TDP, maybe few months between them but nothing important happening. Cithrin was left in charge of her branch of Medean bank, but only at the front - she is now just a figure-head, while everything is decided by her "notary" sent here by central branch. She of course, doesn't like it, but there is not much she can do... Marcus, on the other hand, is pretty satisfied with his life: he has a purpose, steady work, friends around. But as his second, Yardem, tells him, his soul's shape is circle: when he is at the bottom, he can only go up. But when he is at the top, he will inevitably go down.

In Antea, the crisis has been thwarted and conspiracy originating in Asterilhold voided, but those responsible were left unpunished. And now, when King Simeon's is starting to fade and he finally dies, who will be chosen as Regent is not Geder, the Hero of Antea. And although Dawson is starting to become suspicious of Geder's real motivations, what can he do to a man who rely on him so much that he even him the control of the army...

Well, this is the plot in general, and this is the main reason I didn't like the book. Plot is weak, straightforward and completely predictable. Oh sure, there are much that will prove as a surprise, but that are just details, while the big stuff goes where it is expected. I believe that a pretty detailed and accurate synopsis of this book could be fit in several sentences. OK, somewhere around the middle, plot gets intense and interesting, but the end fails to deliver. One good thing to say: small chapters make the pace look much faster.

The setting expansion proved even a bigger disappointment. We didn't see almost anything new of the world except one new city, and that briefly. I also didn't like the fact that this is actually very small world, or part of the world (maybe this means we will be surprised later?): the biggest Empire around can field an Imperial Army numbering six thousand soldiers!!! Maybe it's just me, but I like my armies more numerous and my cities more populated... At least there is one thing to look forward: "sleeping dragons", "dragons turning to stone to sleep", "hidden dragon lairs" are mentioned so many times that there has to be a dragon sometime in the future (look for Chekhov's gun).

The characters remain the brightest part of this book, and still a notch over lots of other books. But even this was weaker that in the first book. In my post about TDP, I was full of praise for such multifaceted characters, being at the same time likable but disgusting, combining so many traits. This stays the same in TKB also, but unfortunately, there are no more surprises and characters don't grow much. The best point is emergence of the new character Clara. I found somewhat funny Dawson's doing all the right way, but for the wrong reasons.

So, in the end I wasn't very satisfied with "The King's Blood". It is not a bad book, but it doesn't jump the bar set by "The Dragon's Path", not even close so. Even so, I will give this series another chance, hoping that the second book was only a preparation for things to come and that the third will be a book more appropriate for Daniel Abraham.

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