A Betrayal in Winter by Daniel Abraham

Book Two of The Long Price Quartet              
Tor Books, 2008           
ISBN13: 978-07653-5188-3        
Mass Market Paperback 352 Pages (plus a preview of Mistborn: The Final Empire)        
Available as the second half of the Tor omnibus Shadow and Betrayal    
Review copy purchased



Picking up thirteen years after the momentous events that closed out A Shadow in Summer, the second installment of A Betrayal in Winter sees the characters of Maati and Otah somewhat changed. Maati is living a life of dishonor because of being involved in the events of the previous novel and Otah is living the simple life of a courier in an attempt to remove himself even further from his family, his role in the events in Saraykeht, and the world of the poets. Otah’s family becomes the central focus of the novel as one of his brothers – in line for the family throne of the Khai – is murdered.  Otah’s old companion – to call the man who coveted and loved the same woman as you a friend is a bit of a stretch – Maati is tasked by the head of his order the Dhai-kvo to investigate the deaths.

So, taking a bit of a step away from the first volume, Daniel Abraham gives readers what is essentially a fantastically infused murder mystery set in the imagined city of Machi. Though the events in the previous volume were indeed climactic, Abraham’s story illustrates how far ranging the consequences of one’s actions can be. From the moment Otah renounced the robes of a poet to the events in this novel, nearly everything he’s done has grown out of that one act.  Otah is perhaps the character who plays the most roles throughout these first two installments – he’s a prince in exile, Itani the laborer, a courier, father, and lover. 

As the novel is set in the Machi homelands, Abraham introduces more of Otah’s family, including his bitter dying father; his power-hungry and jealous sister Idaan and her betrothed Adrah; Otah’s brothers Biitrah Danat and the presumptive heirs of the Mahi throne .  Rounding out the major players are Machi’s ranking poet Cehmai and his andat Stone-Made-Soft. Where as Seedless was a more aggressive and antagonistical creature in A Shadow in Summer, the andat we meet in Stone-Made-Soft is in a more amicable relationship with his poet. Abraham gives ample space for all of these characters to have their own voice, regardless of where their loyalties lie, essentially giving the protagonists and antagonists space to draw empathy from the readers. Power struggles between families vying for influence play more in the background, Abraham focuses primarily on the characters indicated above.

Gender politics become more prevalent in A Betrayal in Winter with the character of Idaan, the Khai’s daughter. Daughters cannot rule in the land of Machi and it is something which Idaan covets knowing it is something she cannot attain.  The consequences of her actions as a result of her justifiable frustrations, again, have a very large ripple effect.  As those consequences become steeper, Idaan has difficulty coping with all the changes being wrought. The women’s roles were pretty clear in A Shadow in Summer, but though they may be clear in Betrayal, the primary female character is not content by any means.

The title of the book itself, like Otah, has several meanings, or rather, can refer to several betrayals.  Family betrayal – both actual and perceived; betrayal of a betrothed and or lover; betrayal to one’s superior; betrayal to one’s nation; betrayal of one’s friend; in short, the betrayal to which the title refers is indeed singular. Of the many betrayals over the course of the novel, determining which singular betrayal the title refers is a puzzle itself.

Although the novel ends with resolution and specifically the solution to a problem presented early in the novel, it is very clear the Abraham has more in store for these characters.  Through two novels, Abraham has only shown a relatively small portion of the world and through those two novels, we know Saraykeht was a world power because of its stranglehold on the cotton industry. Groundwork is laid for An Autumn War, book three of this saga and it is indeed a strong foundation.

Highly Recommended

© Rob H. Bedford

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