Seasons of War by Daniel Abraham
Review by Jasper de Joode
The poets and their magical andat have protected the cities of the Khaiem against their rivals in Galt for generations. Otah, Khai of the Winter City of Machi, has tried for years to prepare his people for a future in which the andat can no longer be safely harnessed. But his warnings have been ignored, and now it’s too late. A ruthless, charismatic Galtic general believes he has found a way to strip the andat of their power. If he is wrong, Galt will be destroyed. If he is right, the Khaiem will fall. Only one thing is certain: conflict is inevitable, and Otah and his old friend and enemy the disgraced poet, Maati, must fight a desperate battle to protect their cities from slaughter. These two men, bound together by shadow and betrayal, will bring the world to the edge of a cataclysm unlike anything either side had imagined. For if the cost of war is high, the price of peace may be unimaginable..
First things first and I have to say that I’m so impressed by the tale that Daniel Abraham has written in book three, An Autumn War. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books (Shadow in Summer and A Betrayal in Winter) but An Autumn War takes the Long Price Quartet to a whole new level. The writing style is more fluent, which makes the story-telling that much better and the change in scenery makes for a more interesting story. The first two books played out mainly within a single city, following a singular perspective, while in An Autumn War the main character Otah is still important, here Balasar, a new and influential character is portrayed with an equal perspective.
An Autumn War follows up events directly linked to the first two books of the Long Price Quartet, however it can also be read as a stand-alone novel as there is enough information included to make events understandable to new readers.
Otah, now following in his fathers footsteps, has some tough decisions to make which can either save his empire or destroy it. In A Shadow in Summer and A Betrayal in Winter the threat to the empire lay with the nation of Galt. The Galts did not simply barge in and made a military coup and the reason behind this, for me at least, remained rather obscure. But finishing An Autumn War I do now know the reason, andats.
A new and important addition to the cast of characters is the Galt General Balasar Gice. His sole purpose is to eliminate the andat. Balasar is Otah’s main enemy and Abraham does a great job in explaining the reasoning behind his wanting to destroy the andats. The author was able to make me sympathise with Balasar and even able to change my thoughts on the andats formed by the previous two books.
The thing that I liked most about An Autumn War was its use of the characters and time Abraham spent allowing them to grow. We have seen Otah grow from a boy to a middle-aged man and this is the same for the other recurring characters, albeit with slightly less detail. Each character’s action has a reaction and consequence and on one occasion this gave me the chills and proved that not every story has an happy ending. An Autumn War is an example of excellent story-telling.
Book four, The Price of Spring, shows the aftermath of the events that occurred in An Autumn War and I must say that the third and fourth books in Long Price Quartet are much much better the first two. Abraham used the first two books largely for world building and character introductions. He is able to build upon these solid foundations and focus upon the aftermath of the war between the Galts and the cities of Khaiem. The poet Maathi becomes central to events as his actions have lead to some awful consequences which and now trying to set right. But this virtuous act brings new troubles and Abraham’s superb writing really makes you sympathise with Maathi.
There was an important aspect to the first two books that I more or less missed – the strong patriarchal culture. Poets, the “magic-users” could only be male. Now Maathi wants to make women Poets as well but his training at the academy was not complete and so this breeds flaws in the female Poets he creates. And Abraham uses these flaws brilliantly and it is hard to put into words the feelings of joy I had when I read the passages of the female poet Vanjit and her andat. The way that Abraham depicted jealousy, envy, hate and innocence was wonderful and authentic, just superb!
And to give you a flavour of the series, here is a poem from near the book’s end:
We say that the flowers return every spring but that is a lie.
It’s true that the world is renewed. It’s also true that the renewal comes at a price.
For even if the flower grows from an ancient vine, the flowers of spring are themselves new to the world, untried and untested. The flower that wilted last year is gone. Petals once fallen are fallen forever.
Flowers do not return in the spring, rather they are replaced. It is in this difference between returned and replaced that the price of renewal is paid.
And as it is for the spring flowers, so it is for us.
The Long Price Quartet is a marvelous set of books. The first two were a little rough but since this is Abraham’s début it is somewhat expected. But he more than makes up for this in the last two books, which were simply superb. And his ending for the Quartet was simply spot on, not overly exuberant but simple, subtle, beautifully idyllic. Abraham really stepped up his game as the series progressed and showed that he is an author to be reckoned with and I hope to see, read and enjoy more of his work in the future.
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