Monday, 18 February 2008

‘The Long Price (A Betrayal in Winter)’ – Daniel Abraham (Orbit Books)

After a short break I picked up ‘A Betrayal in Winter’ (the next instalment in Daniel Abraham’s ‘The Long Price’ Quartet), eager to see what had become of Otah and Maati since I saw them last. Quite a lot had happened, by all accounts, as a number of years have passed since the events that took place in Saraykeht. Otah is still travelling from city to city but it’s now part of his job as he is a courier. Maati, who did pretty well for himself in the last book, is doing less than well now. Events will conspire to place Otah and Maati in the northern city of Machi where the elderly Khai (think ‘King’) is dying and someone is taking a less than savoury interest in the race for the throne. Otah has particular cause to be interested as his own claim to the throne means he is a prime suspect in the deaths of his brothers…
‘A Betrayal in Winter’ takes a step away from the world building of ‘A Shadow in Summer’ (although we’re left in no doubt as to how cold it is!) and concentrates more on the machinations of its cast. This did strike me as a little odd (given that the story takes place in a city that has only been alluded too in passing before now) but, on the whole, I was more than happy to see Abraham’s skill at plot and characterisation take centre stage. This move, on the author’s part, really paid off as far as I’m concerned. These elements were underplayed (albeit with good reason) in the last book so it was refreshing to see them in full force here. It was interesting to see how the relationship between Otah and Maati developed after the events of ‘A Shadow in Summer’. Despite everything that had happened to them both, the events of their childhood still bind them together in ways that created conflict both between themselves and the outside world as well. If you pick this book up, or if you’re reading it already, you’ll see that the smallest of exchanges between these two characters can have the most far-reaching consequences. ‘A Betrayal in Winter’ sees another Poet fall in love with someone best left alone. Abraham uses this to good effect as a means to explore the concept of a Poet’s duty, as well as highlighting the conflict between the Poet and his Andat, but this device feels like it is becoming a pattern now and I hope that this isn’t repeated in future books. It was also slightly odd to see the Andat ‘Stone Made Soft’ as a far less ‘fleshed out’ character than ‘Seedless’ was in the first book. Maybe this is because ‘Stone Made Soft’ isn’t really pivotal to the plot but it just felt to me that maybe more could have been done with this character, maybe in future books...
‘A Betrayal in Winter’ is essentially a ‘murder mystery’ (although you find out ‘who did it’ fairly early on) that becomes much more than that through its characters and what they face throughout the story. World building that is only hinted at is eventually proven to be an effective move in a ‘less is more’ kind of way. Another read that completely demanded my attention and is now demanding that I get onto the rest of the series as soon as possible.

Eight and a Half out of Ten

1 comment:

Chris, The Book Swede said...

Good review :) I had much the same feelings as you. Btw, I need to drop you an email today -- remind me if I forget! :D

The Book Swede