The King’s Blood by Daniel Abraham
Book Two of The Dragon and the Coin Series
Published by Orbit UK, May 2012.
Review by Mark Yon
And so to Book Two of the Dragon and the Coin series, after only a year since the appearance of The Dragon’s Path.
After the set up of Book One, things here start to move into new positions. The Apostate is revealed (if it wasn’t already known) as a major character from Book One. Captain Marcus Wester is now at work in his new job, working with his friend Yardem Hane for Magistra Cithrin bel Sarcour and the Medean Bank in Porte Oliva. Cithrin herself is struggling with the restrictions she agreed to in order to keep her position in the Bank in Book One, now working under Pyk Usterhall, a stern notary from the Bank to ensure her transactions are in the traditions of the Medean.
Meanwhile Geder Palliako, the ‘hero’ of Antea, is now the Protector of the Prince, looking after Aster of Asterilhold. His friend Jorey Dawson is to be betrothed to Sabiha, a marriage some see as controversial. Dawson Kalliam, Jorey’s father, continues to grow concerned over Geder’s increasing importance. Jorey’s mother and Dawson’s wife, Clara, tries to hold her family together whilst the world is changing around them.
The travelling stage show that Cithrin spent time with in Book One is still making its way to the strange cities of the south, but now without its leader, Master Kit, who has felt that his life now pursues a different path. The role of the creepy Spider Goddess religion and its leader Basrahip seems to be increasingly important.
Having set up the world of many races and many alliances in The Dragon’s Path, this one is where it becomes more complicated. We continue to rotate characters and their different points of view. Whilst it took me a little while to remember what happened in The Dragon’s Path, and there’s no real help given, once I was reminded, the chapters flew by. For those who have only recently read, or reread, the first book, I’m sure it would be easier. It is not a book to easily read if you haven’t read the first.
Like an expert chess match, key pieces start to move into place this time around. Some of the actions the characters take are interesting and not what might be expected. The characters themselves become much more developed this time around. We learn more of Wester’s and Cithrin’s past, and we start to get more details of the dragons of the past. Geder in particular is, by turns, thoughtful, scholarly and violent as he reluctantly adjusts to his new position. Throughout the book there’s some life-changing decisions made, life-altering consequences and some major betrayals.
The novel is on a much broader canvas this time around too. We are at war, and Daniel doesn’t skimp on the consequences, both fiscally and politically. This includes Wester attacking pirates to retrieve stolen cargo from a ship the Medean Bank had insured, Cithrin travelling to Camnipol to escape Pyk and network for the Bank and Dawson and Geder both leading men into battle.
As things come to a close at the end of the book it is clear that some of the bigger and yet most secret players have yet to show their hands, and are happy for minor events to take place and clear things for them. The book ends on a cliff hanger for Book Three.
It’s not as complex as A Game of Thrones, though many will try and compare, especially as Daniel knows George. Whilst it is epic, despite the many places, many characters and many races, it is a tad more straightforward than George’s tale, yet nonetheless very enjoyable. Pleasingly, there are still events that surprise here, even when the reader thinks he knows what’s going to happen.
Whilst not perfect, and clearly still setting up for Book Three, this is a rollicking tale of entertainment and energy that will satisfy fans of the first book.
Mark Yon, May 2012