Wed
Mar 18 2009 1:27pm

Lots of reasons to love these: Daniel Abraham’s Long Price books

Last August I asked for suggestions for different cool fantasy that I ought to be reading, and I’d like to thank everyone who recommended Daniel Abraham to me. Wow, these are good books. And they’re a perfect example of what I wanted—they look like generic fantasy books, they just happen to be brilliant. They are A Shadow in Summer, A Betrayal in Winter, An Autumn War and the forthcoming The Price of Spring.

For those of you who haven’t yet picked them up, I thought I’d point out some things about them that make them different and exciting, with absolutely no spoilers at all.

First, there are four books, and they’re all written. The fourth one won’t be out until July, but I have an ARC right here. It’s written, done, ready to go to press. No interminable waiting.

Also on the “no waiting” front, each of these volumes has unusual amounts of climax and closure. They’re all part of one thing, but each volume has its own story, which is complete in that volume. There’s at least ten years between each book. They’re one evolving story of a people and a world and their problems, and after reading one I definitely wanted the others ASAP, but they don’t end on cliffhangers and they didn’t leave me unsatisfied.

It’s a great world. It borrows things from a lot of different history from around the world, but it doesn’t slavishly imitate any one culture. Also, the magic is totally integrated into the history. It’s more like science fiction in many ways. It’s a consideration of the consequences of having the world work that way. There are poets who can capture “andat” which are the perfect expression of an abstract idea. For instance there’s one called “Stone-made-soft” who can make stone soft and has made some famous mines. The andat are people, are solid, are characters in the books, but they’re also held in the world by the poet’s constant struggle. They have enormous and very specific powers, and they have an agenda, and they keep their cities safe because the threat of them is enough to stop anyone thinking of attacking them. There was an Empire once that had andat and it was destroyed, and what’s left now is a set of cities ruled by Khai. The Khai are allowed to have only three sons (subsequent sons go to train to be poets, few of them make it) and those three sons struggle to kill each other to become Khai. The rest of the world, lacking andat, look on jealously.

There’s no struggle between good and evil. There are good points on both sides. Good people do terrible things for what seem like sensible reasons, and live with the consequences. Good people become awful people. Awful people do good things. People compromise. People change. The issues are really murky and some people are really twisty. Oh, and while we’re talking about people—there are terrific female characters in a world where women have to make more effort to achieve things. There are also very different female characters, and very different male characters too. The characterisation generally is such a strength I almost didn’t mention it. Great characters.

The world keeps expanding as the books go on and actions have consequences, but there’s no retconning. Things that are throwaway mentions in A Shadow in Summer are seen to have great significance later. The plot and worldbuilding and history are solid enough to bite. I hate it when I can’t trust that kind of thing, it’s like leaning on a wall and the house falls over. Here I feel I really can. The technology and the magic and all the details of how the world works make sense and integrate.

This may seem like a strange thing to say, but these are post 9/11 fantasy. I’ve read post 9/11 SF already, but this is the first fantasy that had that feel for me. I don’t mean they have allegory, or even applicability. They’re their own thing, not a shadow-play of our world. But they have that sensibility, in the same way that Tolkien was writing about Dark Lords in the shadow of Hitler and Stalin and Marion Zimmer Bradley was writing about Free Amazons during the seventies upswell of feminism. This may eventually make them seem dated, or very much of this time. But right now is this time, and I found this aspect of them interesting to observe.

They’re rattling good stories of the kind that are easy to sink into and pull over your head. I dreamed about that world every night while I was reading them. If fantasy is Tolkien’s “history, true or feigned” here’s some really solid feigned history of just the sort I like best. I wanted to know what happened. I wanted to keep reading them through meals. I’m sorry to have come to the end of them and I know I’ll be re-reading them before too long. I’ll let you know more about them when that happens, and my considered reflections on them. For the time being, if you like fantasy at all you almost certainly want to read these.

Thank you again for recommending them to me.

20 comments
Kate Nepveu
1. katenepveu
Cool, thanks. I have the first of them from the free e-book program here and have been meaning to get to it; I'll bump it up a bit now.
Matthew Brown
2. morven
I read A Shadow in Summer from the free e-book program and the others are now on my list to buy.

Some people, from the Amazon reviews, don't like the plot, feeling that there are some major failures in logic there, but it didn't bother me. I'm more of a 'journey' than 'destination' reader, anyway.
Irene Gallo
3. Irene
Forgive the art pimpery but this series was just too much fun to work on.

Here are Stephan Martiniere's images sans type:
http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y141/igallo/MartiniereSeasons.gif
build six
4. build6
I loved the story in the free e-book (katenepveu - you should not have sat on it :-).

The world/story feels very "Asian". And I really like how the "magic" is not a pointy-hat-wearing-wizard-thumping-staff-shooting-lightning sort of thing
ennead ennead
5. ennead
I only read the first one and, while I found the world fascinating, I didn't like the slow pace and lack of conceptual breakthroughs. The book basically unfolds as it's set up to in its first third.
Are the following books different in that instance?

I did love the characters, though, especially the devious andat who gave me chills with each of his dialog lines.

The concept of lost magic is also totally brilliant.
Joshua Starr
6. JStarr
@3: I *adore* that art, especially the first and last pieces. (I guess things get darker in the middle of the series, as things will.) When I have lots of money, I'll buy a high quality print of a Stephan Martiniere piece, and the A SHADOW IN SUMMER art is high on the list of possibilities.

Okay, I'll read these books soon.
Jo Walton
7. bluejo
Ennead: the end of An Autumn War totally surprised me. But really, I didn't find any of them predictable.
ennead ennead
8. ennead
Okay. I'll definitely check them out.
Thanks (again! :) for the recommendation.
Susan Loyal
9. Susan Loyal
As one of the original recommenders in that August thread, I'm delighted that you liked The Long Price Quartet. I'm also a little envious that you've gotten to read The Price of Spring already, but the envy caused me to reflect on just how satisfying each of these volumes is on its own. The stopping point of An Autumn War is so stunning that I'm actually enjoying having to wait for volume four. I agree that this feels like post 9/11 fantasy, especially in the moral complexities of the autumn war. Thanks for the post!
Ian Tregillis
10. ITregillis
Ennead @5:

I'd be tempted to say that the entire quartet unfolds exactly as it's set up in the first novel. (I've have the privilege of reading The Price of Spring already.) But I say that as very high praise-- it unfolds exactly the way it has to, and still surprised the heck out of me several places along the way. Daniel Abraham knows what he's doing.
Jo Walton
11. bluejo
Susan: One of the benefits of being published, and one I had no idea about before I sold my first novel, is that I can request free books from my publisher, in this case, Tor. And that sometimes spills over into getting ARCs ahead of time, which totally rocks.

In the case of these, I bought A Shadow in Summer a little while ago, finally picked it up and started reading, bought A Betrayal in Winter (by my count, it should be called Five Betrayals in Winter) before I'd quite finished the first one, and emailed Tor at the same time to ask them to rush me the other two, which they did.

The Price of Spring starts fifteen years ahead of the end of The Autumn War and it's definitely not disappointing.
ennead ennead
12. ennead
Thanks ITregillis.
I didn't mean that unfolding the way a story has to is a bad thing - I actually love that. I just missed seeing more of the depth I could sense in the first book impact on the story. But I understand now that the next volumes do just that.
Susan Loyal
13. Susan Loyal
Jo: At least five. The second volume could almost have been titled "Nothing But Betrayals in Winter" (although I think I remember reading that the author's working title had been simply "Winter Cities"). I had to explain to my husband that it was a riff on Macbeth before he could read it with patience, as he initially assumed it was constructed as a who-done-it and had those expectations handed to him on a plate, much to his dismay.

Anyway, I'm delighted you had the reading experience you enjoy, without significant breaks between volumes. Thanks for letting me know that The Price of Spring measures up.
Susan Loyal
14. Janice in GA
I really like the first book (freebie from last year). I was really disappointed to see that the rest weren't available as ebooks (at least, they weren't the last time I checked) because I'd've already bought them by now.
Mary Kay Kare
15. MaryKay
Ah. I recently bought the ARC of #4 in an auction. It just moved to the top of my TBR. I really loved these books. An Autumn War broke my heart and I love writers who can do that.

MKK
Susan Loyal
16. sjccart
I looked forward to reading Larry Bond's "First Team," but I stopped on the first page.

Type's too small.
Jeremiah Fasano
17. mihalyi
@ Janice.

I don't know if you read DRM'ed ebooks, but 'Winter,' at least, is available as a Kindle edition - I'm reading it on my iPhone right now!

--

On a semi-related topic, once OS 3.0 comes out this summer and you can buy books from directly within the iPhone Kindle app itself, I am going to be in serious trouble...I can't imagine how many books I'd be buying if I had the Kindle itself. Series where all multiple volumes are available are a particular problem...
Melinda Snodgrass
18. Melinda
I was fortunate enough to read all four books as Daniel submitted them to our workshop. I think they're brilliant books, and they are a perfect example of why knowing where you're going is so important and pays off so well in the end. By carefully plotting the entire quartet Daniel was able to give readers a totally satisfying ending.
Susan Loyal
19. natrist
Where is the mass market copy for the price of spring??? I love books ansd specially series ones. I've been meaning to get a copy of this series but I like my books to look the same. SO again.. Where's the mass market for the price of spring?
Gene Hilgreen
20. EHilgreen
Ive just finished reading all 4 "First Team" books by Larry Bond and Jim DeFelice. Yes the print was small in the first book but get over it the series was great. Starting the "Red Dragon Rising" series now. BUT, I sure would like to see more of Ferg, Skip, Guns, Thera and my favorite lawyer
Corrine Alston their boss.

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