Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Spider's War Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Daniel Abraham
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Low Fantasy
Series: The Dagger and the Coin Book Five
Pages: 528

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The Spider's Away

(Contains spoilers for the previous four books in The Dagger and the Coin).

The stage is set for the final showdown between the lord regent of Antea, Geder Palliako, and the powerful banker Cithrin bel Sarcour. In his attempt to destroy his former lover Cithrin, Geder has stretched the Antean armies to their breaking point. Rebellion is everywhere, and as Antea's armies fall back to defend their homeland, it becomes Cithrin, Clara, and Marcus's task to find away to stop the warfare from raging out of control.

I've really enjoyed Abraham's inverted protagonist/antagonist scheme. In today's stories how often do you find yourself siding with the powerful banker over someone who's emotionally crippled and lonely. In Abraham's Dagger and the Coin it's logical thinking and mastering your emotions that's seen as wise, and while this could be what helps a lot of fantasy protagonists prevail, you can't help but feel the character types have been reversed.

Geder passed the non-redeeming point in the first book, since then he's just been adding fuel to the fire. And it doesn't take long for him to do that again. Despite his desperate, and very sympathetic emotional state, actions still speak louder than words. It would be easy to blame the priests, for Geder's sociopathic outbursts, but as Geder's narration continues it becomes clear, it's not just all the fault of the priests. His narrations reach a new level of genuine creepiness and delusion.

To counter Geder's insanity, there is the innovative and precise thinking of functional alcoholic Cithrin. She does have a heart, but she'll be quick to pour cold logic over it, consider her present view of Paliako:
"He's not Orcus the Demon King. He's not war incarnate. He's just a person, and my job is to judge people and risk what losses are wise to hazard in return for what rewards."
As much as I enjoy Cithrin, and despite the quote above - which is "true Cithrin" in my opinion - in The Spider's War she becomes a bit too altruistic. As she states early on in the story, her status as a banker and her financial scheme won't be put down by Paliako's armies or even Antea losing the war. It's only if Paliako captures her that she would be in any real danger, and it's clear from the onset that Antea is in way too much military trouble to even begin considering taking Cithrin.

Unpredictability and unconventional plots have been a mainstay, but The Spider's War unfortunately seems to largely break this trend. I was hoping to see how Cithrin's creation of paper money would somehow play a role in bringing down Geder, or at the very least be instrumental in shaping the ending. Instead we see a large gathering of the series' protagonists (typical fantasy cliche) to stop evil (in this case the idea of ever prolonging war - a pretty unfeasible idea).

Pacing, like in the previous books, was also an issue. Abraham has quite a few plot threads to wrap up and the quickness with which he tries to sufficiently do this is evident. I'm very emotionally invested in Abraham's characters, especially Cithrin and Geder, but my feelings towards the end about everything and everyone were kind of dulled. I still believe Dagger and the Coin was an enjoyable series, and I'd still recommend it, especially if you're looking for an epic fantasy that moves things along.

Score: 7.0

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