As I have mentioned in last week's #FridayReads-post, and plainly visible on my GoodReads page, I am currently reading The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham. Since I'll be finishing it one of these days and will review it, I thought it useful to post my review on the first book in the series here, so to get a complete set of reviews in the end. This particular review is some two years old, I guess.
Expectation is a peculiar thing. Whenever I start a new book, I have some expectations of it, according to the specific (sub)genre, the author, reviews etc. The trick, however, is to not let your expectations get to high because it can ruin a book. I’ve mentioned in a previous review that starting with nigh to none expectations can make you really enjoy a book. The opposite, on the other hand, is also true. When you expect more than the book is able to deliver, it turns out a little disappointing. That is exactly my experience with The Dragon’s Path. I wanted it to be as amazing as your average George R.R. Martin, but it couldn’t quite deliver.
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.
The fact that it wasn’t able to be another Martinish book (*), wasn’t the only problem I had with this book, however. As for the plot, I still can’t really tell what the book is about. I don’t mind not knowing where a book is going, as long as it is going somewhere and here, I didn’t feel like it was really going somewhere.
The book starts off really well though. The prologue is really interesting and sparked my attention. The character who was introduced there, however, doesn’t return until the epilogue, as well as reference to the fascinating trick he pulled in the first couple of pages. Granted, (view spoiler)he does make an appearance, but it’s not until the second half of the book that you really know who he is and the cool spidery thing he did isn’t mentioned once (**). I can’t help but feel a bit cheated because of that. I was really looking forward to that particular character and his weirdness but I just never got it. What we do get, is four story arcs who are represented by four different POV’s. At first, I was really interested in them all, but after some chapters, it all slowed down to a terrible pace and I became frustrated. Frustrated because what I was reading wasn’t as interesting as the prologue and frustrated because it was all so slo-o-o-ow. The things that did happen throughout the book weren’t really interesting and it wasn’t until the end that the pace started to pick up and things became slightly more interesting. It would have been better, for me, if these events were placed within a wider frame. The main part of this book consists of worldbuilding, but even though there is a huge amount of it, it doesn’t suffice to give me a proper understanding of what’s at stake. Why should I care who wins and who’s on the Severed Throne? I didn’t know and still don’t. Because of that, I felt disconnected from what’s going on. While things got more interesting towards the end, I have to say though that (view spoiler)the way towards the conclusion felt a bit too easy for me. I like the concept and find it intriguing, but it wasn’t that well put too use. I felt like I missed some suspense and excitement simply because of this.
Luckily, the characters were very good. We get introduced to four very different characters, all with their own little storyline and there are some connections between them. Out of the four, I found Dawson’s the least interesting and by times tedious to get through. His was all about the intrigue at the court and whilst that an sich is really fascinating to read about, his vision on it wasn’t. It would have been way more interesting if Clara, his wife, was POV instead of Dawson himself. Clara is seemingly superficial, but she is cunning and shrewd. It isn’t until she becomes point of view towards the end, that I got interested in what’s going on there. Geder is a bit of a mixed bag for me. At the start, he is another Samwell Tarly. Because of the whole underdogvibe he’s got going on, I kind of liked him. However, a good part in the book, he made some decisions that made me dislike him, a lot. He might have had a big ass, but now he’s become one. That’s not to say his story gets uninteresting, cause it really doesn’t and I’m looking forward to see what future books hold in store for him. Cithrin and Marcus were by far the most interesting. I really liked their individual as well as their mutual story and the connection between them and those around. I liked the evolution of Cithrin from an insecure girl to a cunning – not in the way it is used in the book, mind – woman. Along with them, the addition of the group of actors was lovely. They really provided some comic relief, albeit in a more subtle way, that was really necessary for the novel.
As far as the writing style is concerned, I don’t have anything to complain about. Really strong writing, able to engage and make you care. It’s not too elaborate nor difficult, so that was all good.
Because of those things concerning the plot that irked me, I feel like I’ve read a really long introduction to what seems like a really interesting series. I felt like this book was really promising, but couldn’t quite deliver. It did build up to something, though I don’t know to what and I guess that’s something that will be addressed in the second book. I was already convinced, but the epilogue made me really want to read the sequel. What I won’t do, however, is set the bar too high, cause I don’t want to end up liking the book less than I would want to, as was the case here.
Fancy walking the Dragon's Path yourself? Walk the walk here!
(**) I'll forever remember the day I put spiders and cool in one and the same sentence without the use of a verb of destruction. A day like that hasn't occured ever since.