An Autumn War by Daniel Abraham

Book Three of The Long Price Quartet              
Tor Books, 2009           
ISBN13: 978-07653-5189-0        
Mass Market Paperback 352 Pages (plus a preview of The Long Price, book four of The Long Price Quartet)      
Available as the first half of the Tor omnibus The Price of War (publishing in November 2012)     
Review copy purchased


With An Autumn War, the third book of The Long Price Quartet, Daniel Abraham broadens the scope of the story to a much more global scale.  The much-spoken about nation of the Galts comes knocking and as the title suggests, the lands ruled by Otah Khai-Machi come into conflict with the ancient enemies allowing this third volume build to strongly on the base of the previous two novels in this ambitious quartet.

Abraham jumps another fourteen years between books at the beginning of An Autumn War, Otah is entrenched in his role as ruler trying to keep his nation together.  While Otah is busy ruling, Maati spends much of his time in the novel reflecting. He’s a librarian now and takes great care to recount his experience with the andat (the powerful beings magically wrought who embody a powerful thought or idea brought to life), what went wrong with Seedless and Stone-Made-Soft (the andats featured in the previous two novels.  Maati’s experiences and life have given him a greater maturity and sense of care. Instead of rushing to the possibility of having an andat of his own, Maati realizes such a thing could very easily turn out to be the dark reflection of one’s hopes.

Rather than immediately reacquaint readers with these two by-now familiar characters, Abraham chooses a different path to begin the novel. The prolog is a very effective and iconic accounting of a Galtic general, Balasar Gice, returning with two companions and what prove to be important secrets about the andat.  These secrets could bring balance to the world and prove the final undoing of the andat…or so he hopes.

One thing I’ve remarked about this series is the idea of consequences.  Here in The Autumn War, Abraham provides a vantage point into the world outside of the cities where the andat have such an impact. As previously indicated, Galt and how they’ve lived in fear and hatred of the poet sorcerers and their pet andat which are thoughts made form and life. Rather than a small glimpse, Abraham follows the story from both sides of the conflict, much as he laid out the story from both sides of the conflict in A Betrayal in Winter. The ultimate consequences to affect this world; it would seem, is the existence of the andat, for these magically born creatures keep one nation in power with the others in the shadows.

Otah eventually leaves the confines of his nation, along with his son and Maati’s son, to take part in the brutal war with the Galts. The Galts are a well-oiled machine of a fighting force, whereas the people under Otah’s leadership are common folk not nearly as trained in the mechanics and intricacies of war. The aforementioned Balasar Gice leads the Galtic army and what an interesting and powerful group they are. One fascinating element Abraham lent to the Galts was the power of steam to allow for their wagons to travel without as many beasts of burden. This is a minor detail, but speaks quite powerfully – in a nation without the magically created andat, technology has progressed for the Cites of the Khaiem have nothing resembling steam-power.

Abraham convincingly portrays both sides of this conflict as authentic and believable, without either Otah and the Cites of the Khaiem or the Galts coming across purely villainous or pristinely clean.  Both larger groups of people merely want to go about their lives and the characters who represent these nations are convincing in their actions, and the reasons for those actions.

Gice’s suspicions and fears of just how powerful the andat are come through very powerfully in one fell swoop towards the end of the war and the novel. Many things may come as a surprise, but Abraham leaves enough of an indication where he’s going thematically and plotwise throughout this novel and the two novels which preceded it in terms of an endgame for An Autumn War to make everything seem logical and calculated.

I’ve completed ¾ of The Long Price Quartet with An Autumn War and my very early hesitancy with A Shadow in Summer is proving to be a large mistake on my past self. The benefit; however, is for my present self, as I am reading through these books for the first time with great delight.

© 2012 Rob H. Bedford

Highly recommended

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