The King’s Blood (The Dagger and the Coin 2), by Daniel Abraham
Troubled times lay ahead in the Kingdoms. In Anthea, Geder Pallaiko, protector of the crown prince is elevated to regent when the king dies. From noble but lowly beginnings, Pallaiko wasn’t raised to be a ruler, and finds himself in his elevated role almost by accident. Relying heavily on Basrahip, High Priest of the Spider Goddess and able to both tell truth from lie and to influence people’s actions, the Regent finds himself on a path to war while allowing petty grievances from the past to influence his present decisions.
Also in Anthea, Dawson Kalliam, a Baron, loses a close childhood friend when the old king dies. Unimpressed by Pallaiko and suspicious of the influence the High Priest has over the Regent, Dawson is looking for ways to save Anthea for Aster, the crown prince. When he’s promoted to the head of Anthea’s army when the country goes to war he has no choice but to follow orders. But will a war fought for a regent he doesn’t believe him change his mind about the man?
Cithrin bel Sarcour finds herself deeply frustrated. After having saved a branch of the Medean Bank from destruction and rebuilding it in a new location, she now finds herself supervised by a rigid and unimaginative actuary. Rumours about an upcoming war give Cithrin an opportunity to spread her wings and advance her position.
Captain Marcus Wester, former king-killer and present day protector of and enforcer for Cithrin, is in the unusual position where he’s not in the middle of a violent conflict. Still haunted by past nightmares he has dedicated his life to protecting the young banker. But when Cithrin goes away without him and his friend betrays him, he finds himself recruited to a quest he doesn’t really believe in.
Master Kit, former apostate of the Spider Goddess can feel the danger the world is in and abandons his acting troupe to go on a quest to kill a Goddess and save the world from a desperate fate. A quest he isn’t sure he can complete or survive. All are people caught up in events they can’t really control, brought on by a past too ancient to be remembered. They stand on the brink of an age of madness and death and seem too weak and divided to prevent disaster.
This is turning into a fascinating and powerful fantasy saga. Building on events in “The Dragon’s Path”, the story slowly and almost imperceptibly moves towards darkness, death and destruction. And while the reader, with insight into all parts of the story, can see the danger with ever greater clarity, the characters in the story, with one exception, have no idea what is lying ahead of them or the depth of the danger they are facing.
Daniel Abraham has done a wonderful job building a world the reader can easily believe in. While the thirteen races described in the book are mostly completely unlike any we know in our own world, the separation and discrimination between them is all too familiar. And that is what makes this series of books so interesting. This is not an action packed story. It is a tale of intrigue, politics, undercurrents and subterfuge. It is a fascinating read because, although the setting and characters are completely fictional and firmly set in a fantasy world, the ideas behind the story are real and easy to translate into the world we know so well. Both are worlds in which money and political games rule. Both are worlds in which the right thing to do isn’t always clear or possible to achieve.
There are hardly any clear-cut black or white characters in this book. Everyone acts first and foremost in their own best interest, with the concerns of and for others coming second at best. And while this could, in the hands of a lesser author, have resulted in a book filled with uninspiring characters, Abrahams has succeeded in delivering a novel filled with realistic people who the reader will end up caring about. It is impossible not to hope that even those characters who are making all the wrong decisions will come to their senses before it is too late.
This is the second book in a series, and while it can easily be read without reading the prequel first, I would advise anyone tempted to try this book to start with “The Dragon’s Path”. Reading the books in the order in which they were published will, without a doubt, increase the reading enjoyment.
This is a great read, and my only regret is that it will probably be another year before I can get my hands on the next instalment.