Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Widow's House Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Daniel Abraham
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Low Fantasy
Series: The Dagger and the Coin Book Four
Pages: 544

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(Spoilers for the previous three Dagger and Coin books are below).

The planned penultimate book in Daniel Abraham’s Dagger and the Coin series is a return to form for the author, especially after the last book had some typical “being the middle installment of a fantasy series” types of issues. While the previous book began the workings of an epic showdown between Cithrin’s supporters and Geder’s supporters, establishing an almost good vs. evil type of fantasy story, The Widow’s House really starts to muck things up with some interesting moral dilemmas.

After spurning Geder and breaking his heart, Cithrin bel Sarcour is heading back to Porte Oliva to try and regain control of the bank branch she started. Cithrin has now openly put herself and the Medean bank at odds with Geder Palliako, the most powerful person in the world and Geder’s priests are also instrumental in turning public opinion against her. Cithrin has to strategize and convince the Governor of Porte Oliva and the Queen of Birancour not to sell her back to Geder in order to avoid a war with the unbeatable Antean forces.

Geder continues to defeat all of his enemies, but he still cannot secure a relationship with the woman he loves.  Haunted by his lack of romantic experience and his failed attempt at wooing Cithrin, Geder continues to put all of his effort into “securing world peace.” Abraham adds a lot of endearing and sympathetic chapters to Geder’s arc in this book, this is the most tragic he’s looked.  At the same time a pervasive and creepy aura underlies all of these moments.  Like the characters that surround Geder, the reader is apprehensively awaiting his next horrendous outburst of violence.

Clara Kalliam has begun to conspire against Geder, too.  Her letters keep Cithrin informed, even though she doesn’t know the identity of the writer, and she’s now sabotaged a high ranking position for her son Jorey.  Clara’s entire family is spread out and on various sides of the wars started by Geder.  Jorey is Geder’s Lord Marshall, but it’s unclear as to how loyal he is to him; Vicarian has become one of the spider priests; Barriath has left Antea in exile vowing to avenge the death of his father. A lot of attention is focused on the struggles of the Kalliam family in this novel (hence the title of the book), and Clara must use her cunning to do everything she can to keep her family together while continuing to sabotage Geder.

Marcus and Master Kit’s quest to find a dragon succeeded at the end of the last book, and this book begins moments after they wake the dragon up with a “Hey! Nap time’s over! Wake the hell up!” – a new personal favorite line of dialogue of mine for waking up a giant magical beast. With an ending that’s almost the exact same as George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, I was worried that this series would be heading down a more predictable road with the dragon plot.  It doesn’t and once again I can’t help but admire Daniel Abraham’s continued ability to continue writing a story in a genre where predictable plots are one of its most notorious Achilles heels.

More history about the fall of the dragons is revealed via Inys (the dragon that Marcus wakes up).  Inys also narrates a fairly entertaining prologue, and I certainly wished to see more from him.  As the new major character is this book, Inys views himself as a God and he refers to all the humans as his slaves.  At the same time he recognizes the threat that the spider priests pose making him a useful but potentially dangerous ally.

As Abraham has stated in interviews banking will play an important part in the series.  That statement really holds true in this book.  Who will win the Geder vs. Cithrin war for the land now to seems to be less important than how they will win.  How they will win will shape the future of this land and that’s the question the author leaves readers with as The Dagger and the Coin gets ready to conclude with the release of its final installment in 2015.

Score: 9.1

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