Backlist Burndown Review: The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham
Narrator: Pete Bradbury
Series: The Dagger and the Coin #1
Published by Orbit on April 7, 2011
Genres: Epic, Fantasy
All paths lead to war...
Marcus' hero days are behind him. He knows too well that even the smallest war still means somebody's death. When his men are impressed into a doomed army, staying out of a battle he wants no part of requires some unorthodox steps.
Cithrin is an orphan, ward of a banking house. Her job is to smuggle a nation's wealth across a war zone, hiding the gold from both sides. She knows the secret life of commerce like a second language, but the strategies of trade will not defend her from swords.
Geder, sole scion of a noble house, has more interest in philosophy than in swordplay. A poor excuse for a soldier, he is a pawn in these games. No one can predict what he will become.
Falling pebbles can start a landslide. A spat between the Free Cities and the Severed Throne is spiraling out of control. A new player rises from the depths of history, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon's Path-the path to war.
It took me a long time to finally read this book. I’ve owned a copy of it for years because I was sure I would read it as everything about it screams “READ ME! I AM THE PERFECT BOOK FOR YOU”. Somehow, years pass and the book remained unread by me. Now that I have started my Backlist Burndown effort, this naturally seemed like a perfect choice! (And it turned out to be a very good choice!)
The book is reminiscent of a historical fantasy. There are references to dragons and different races of humans, but really there is not much “fantastical” (creatures or magic) in this book. Which is honestly fine by me as I most of my favorite books are low fantasy. There are four main characters that are really two sets of two, meaning Cithrin and Marcus’s storylines intersect and Geder and Dawson’s storylines intersect. Though I feel it was really about Cithrin and Geder more than their companion perspectives. Or maybe I just favored those two enough that they overshadowed the others. I don’t say that because any of them were bad. I just definitely had preferences for Cithrin and Geder. I will also mention, none of these characters are perfect people. All storylines have some moral ambiguity and shades of grey. This is something I love as I find it much more relatable and exponentially more interesting than black and white good versus evil.
I do have a confession to make in this review. I am a complete sucker for the girl dressed as a boy trope. I just love it for some reason, so I was thrilled when I realized that the one female perspective in this fell into that. Maybe it shouldn’t amuse me as much as it does, but hey, we all have personal preferences/weaknesses/quirks/tropes we love. This is mine. Cithrin is an orphan who was taken in by a banking house. Being intelligent and raised in a bank, she has a serious head for money and business. By a strange turn of events, she finds herself alone on the road with an incredible amount of wealth (the bank’s treasury). Cithrin is a young woman, and there is a bit of coming of age for her, but it’s not an overwhelming part of the story. She’s young, she’s placed in extraordinary circumstances and she has to grow, adjust and learn to survive.
There are some strong economic storylines and politics in this. But don’t let that dissuade you because it is incredibly well done and not the least bit dry. Actually, it reminded me of The Folding Knife by K. J. Parker in this way.
Geder is interesting because he is the low man on the nobility totem pole. He much prefers his books and studies to court or the sword. He’s an outsider and as such he is set up to be used in some greater political scheme. But being thrust into such a position gives him opportunity to become central whether it is what he is looking for or not. It is interesting to see an outsider with no real political ambitions respond to being thrust into the middle of things. I also enjoy getting the outsiders insight and take on events.
Being the first in five book series, there is a lot of set up in this book. When I think back, there were definitely some big events, but for the length of the book I feel like more of it was getting familiar with everything and set up for future books. I am not complaining! I love epic series and there was not once in this book that I felt the pace was slow or that I was sludging through world building info dumps. It all just flowed, and suddenly the book was done.
Overall this was an enjoyable read, I do plan to continue the series and just hope it won’t take me years to get to the next one!
I have challenged and committed myself to reading at least one book from my backlist every month and posting the review on the last Friday of the month. I invite anyone interested to join me and link up their own Backlist Burndown reviews. I will offer the link at the bottom of my monthly Backlist Burndown reviews, and also will keep a running record of the reviews on my Dracarys! Backlist Burndown page available from my top menu.