Review: The King’s Blood by Daniel Abraham

Title: The King’s Blood

Author: Daniel Abraham

Rating:

Publisher: Orbit

Format: Trade Paperback

Review:

There’s no denying Daniel Abraham’s versatility. He has been successful in writing epic fantasies, space operas, urban fantasies, and most recently, graphic novels, with an adaptation of GRRM’s Game of Thrones.

The King’s Blood is Daniel Abraham’s second novel in The Dagger and the Coin series. The appropriately titled series tells of various factions competing for power by shrewd monetary deals and ruthless swordplay. Cithrin is an ambitious young banker who has her eyes set on establishing her own bank. As she travels north, she unknowingly sets herself on a path with Geder, the puppet king of a cunning priest. Geder is clueless to the priest’s intentions and heeds his advice with rote obedience.

Dawson is aware of the priest’s hold on Geder and plans a coup. Meanwhile his wife, Clara, maintains their social rank by building relationships with others of the court. Finally we have Marcus, Cithrin’s trusted bodyguard, who desires to travel north to protect her from danger only to find himself in his own set of troubles.

There’s no denying that Abraham is a good writer and this series exemplifies it well. The world building is vast, yet the story moves at a quick pace, keeping the reader glued to the always-changing events. Dawson, who was somewhat of a dull character in the first novel, becomes one of the highlights of the second novel as his discerning eye sees through the priests intentions and he devises a plan to kill the king.

Geder remains complex. He is a scholar of the written word, but appears foolish by worldly standards. He is emotionally unstable and is prone to violent outbursts, but in quiet solitude, he has a forgiving spirit. His interactions with the priest leave the reader wondering if he is over-trusting, clueless, or really just uncaring for others.

The best part of Abraham’s writing is balance. It’s not pretentious, nor does it dwell on details. His writing is able to provide a descriptive setting, good dialog, and an appropriate depth of character. The chapters are short and there is never a point where I feel that the novel drags.

The novel is far from perfect, however. First of all, one cannot help but notice the strong likeness to Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Like Martin, each chapter is titled with the point of view character’s name. Each character has a unique plot, none of which are either good or evil. There are elements of magic, but the use of it is slight. The stories take place in a fictional locale, but the culture resembles medieval Europe. The books appendices provide character descriptions. I’m not saying that the formula is bad, but it is hard not to draw comparisons and Abraham’s novel does not achieve the same epic scale as Martin’s massive novels.

I was also disappointed in Cithrin’s character arc in this novel. The first novel was a coming of age story for her as she bravely endeavored into banking by making illicit deals. In The King’s Blood, her ambition remains the same, but she purposefully side tracks herself by helping Geder for unknown reasons. I see Cithrin as a woman of power, which she demonstrates by assisting the king, but she is also a woman of purpose. This was forsaken for the second half of the novel.

In any case, reading The King’s Blood is an enjoyable experience and for those looking for an epic fantasy in the style of George R. R. Martin, you will find yourself at home here. There is plenty of adventure and character depth to hold the reader’s interest on many levels. I wait with anticipation for the next book in the series.

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