Where I Got It: Own it.
Who I Recommend This To: Looking for a new take on epic fantasy? Check this book out.
Publisher: Orbit (2011)
Length: 555 pages
Series: Book 1 The Dagger & The Coin
Set in an ancient world long since ruled by dragons, the 13 dragon-made races of humans continue on with civilization. Cithrin, a half-Cinnae ward of the Medean bank, grows up with numbers and sums as her nursery rhymes and ledger books as her dolls. Marcus Wester, well known for his military achievements and his ability to instill loyalty in his soldiers, now leads a quieter life with his trusted friend, the Tralgu Yardem. Dawson, an honorable man in his own eyes and according to a certain code, needs everyone in their proper places in society, and will go to great lengths to maintain that order. Geder, a tentative and secretive scholar, unfortunately is part of the military, and also the butt of all his friends’ jokes. All these people will find themselves at the center of big changes that will affect not just their city or country, but the entire continent.
This was a brilliant book. I love my epic fantasy and I walked into this book expecting a good story with some typical epic fantasy tropes (stuff I enjoy and why I keep returning to the genre). Yet Daniel Abraham gave me more than that. First, the world of The Dagger & the Coin series is ancient. It has evolved. It was once a place ruled by dragons, where the races of humans were created to serve or entertain the rulers of the world. Now, the dragons have long since disappeared, all but fallen into myth. The races have intermingled, have their own religions, commerce, cities, and politics. Next, the characters we follow are interesting, with pasts of their own, and caught up in circumstances that they must navigate successfully, or perish. Several of the characters grow throughout the book, and there were a few twists of circumstances that turned some characters in a different direction than I expected. Political intrigue, a bank’s treasury on the run, military action, manipulation, a troop of actors, and the occasional drunken bout fill these pages. It is a hell of a ride!
Of course, I developed my favorite plot lines with the chapters moving from character to character. Cithrin and Marcus Wester were a lot of fun to ride around inside their heads. Cithrin probably grew the most in this book and I found myself rooting for her at every turn. The conversations, clipped as they were, between Marcus and Yardem often had me chuckling with the dry humor. In fact, if life was a bit different, I could see my man and I having some of those same conversations. At first, I wasn’t too interested in Dawson, but as time went forward, I saw how his rigid view of the right and the wrong of the world made him a very complex man. Of course, this same trait also makes him a volatile man in the sense that if you step out of your place he can’t help but try to shove you back in it, or even eliminate you entirely. I had the same reaction to his wife Clara, at first practically ignoring her as a woman primarily interested in appearances. Later we learn that she is quite a bit more than that. Of course Geder turns out to be a very complex man. I don’t want to say too much here as I mean to avoid spoilers, but damn! I loved watching his story line as it took turns I did not expect.
What I Liked: The detailed world-building; the complex characters; there’s several characters with mysterious pasts; the dragon myths; Geder’s story line; the ending sets the reader up for Book 2 perfectly.
What I Disliked: Not a true complaint, but it did take me most of the book to start picturing the different races in my head. Abraham has a good description of each on his website. Perhaps this could be in the books too?
What Others Think: