The Spider’s War by Daniel Abraham
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Dagger and the Coin (Book #5 of 5)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 519 pages (Kindle edition)
Published: 8th March 2016 by Orbit
The best of the series; The Spider’s War is an unconventional and incredibly satisfying conclusion to an underrated fantasy series.
“The world has never been fair. Often beautiful. Sometimes kind when kindness was not deserved. But never fair.”
With this, I’m caught up with reading all the SFF novels written by Daniel Abraham. I can also confirm that The Spider’s Path made The Dagger and the Coin excluded from my personal curse with five books series. For those of you who don’t know, I have this unexplainable curse with five books fantasy series; often, either the final book of the series disappointed me, or the entire series just felt like it’s one book longer than it should. That’s definitely not the case with The Spider’s War and this series. This is, in my opinion, the best of the series.
“I find that unless we are very, very careful there can be a difference between who we are and the stories we tell ourselves about who we are.”
The Spider’s War takes place immediately after the exciting ending of The Widow’s House. I did feel like the majority of the previous book was designed to be a preparation for the big conclusion to happen in The Spider’s War, and Abraham successfully delivered. I do believe that The Dagger and the Coin is one of the most underrated fantasy series; the same thing can also be applied to The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham. I’ve mentioned it times and times again, but Abraham’s fantasy books deserve more audience. Despite the similarities in storytelling style to George R. R. Martin, which is a positive thing for me, I feel that Abraham’s fantasy books can be described as distinct, unconventional, and clever. The Spider’s War heightened everything good about the previous books to a new level. The Tyrant’s Law and The Widow’s House brought powerful meaning to the title of the series; money and wealth have an equal destructive capability to influence a war as blades. The result of this confrontation of daggers, coins, and faith reached a seriously thrilling result in this novel. And in the midst of it all, the themes of compassion, hope, faith, redemption, mercy, and justice were never excluded.
“Thoughtfulness and kindness and love, I contend, are so much the way we expect the world to be that they become invisible as air. We only see war and violence and hatred as something happening, I suggest, because they stand out as aberrations. In my experience, even in the midst of war, many lives are untouched by battle. And even in a life of conflict, violence is outweighed by its absence.”
The entire series is a character-driven epic fantasy series, and the pacing in the series is relatively slower than other epic fantasy series. If character-driven fantasy isn’t your thing, I have a feeling you’ll have a hard time getting into this series. Frankly speaking, there were several moments in the first half of The Spider’s War where I thought the series won’t be able to escape the five-books curse. The travelogue and military fantasy aspects in Marcus and Clara’s POV chapters during the first half of the novel felt a bit too long for me; they weren’t bad per se, they just didn’t feel crucial in comparison to Geder and Cithrin’s chapters. Thankfully, I’m already invested in every POV character, and I can certainly tolerate minor hiccups in the pacing. And as I mentioned, there were Cithrin and Geder’s POV chapters; they completely stole the show from the beginning to the end. In hindsight, it’s ridiculous and believable to witness how far Cithrin and Geder developed. The character developments in this series—especially Cithrin and Geder—are superbly executed, and it genuinely makes me sad that so many fantasy readers haven’t witnessed their story.
“The story of a person could never be as complex as they actually were because then it would take as much time to know someone as it did to be them. Reputation, even when deserved, inevitably meant simplification, and every simplification deformed.”
This isn’t to say that Marcus and Clara’s chapters were underwhelming; Cithrin’s and Geder’s were just too good, that’s all. And remember, the minor hiccups in pacing happened only in the first half of the novel. Once the POV character’s story converged in this novel, the rest of the narrative was an unputdownable thrill; packed with emotions and absolutely breathtaking. Abraham is so good at weaving politics and engaging character’s relationships. The buildup, politics, and mind games were fully established to make sure the second half of this novel shine so brilliantly. Emotions and stakes were constantly high, and I can’t speak spoilers here, but it always felt like everyone’s just one step away from imminent failure. It was that intense. Plus, the brief moment of respite, such as the night before the battle talk, were implemented magnificently; these characters have come so far, and these moments further amplified that feeling. It’s all incredible, really, and let me just say once again that Geder Palliako is one of the most interesting and well-written I’ve come across in fantasy.
“I don’t know what justice is,” she said.
“That’s because it isn’t the sort of thing you discover. It’s a thing you make.” She looked at him, and he shrugged. “There are things you find out in the world. Rocks and streams and trees. And there are things you make. Like a house, or a song. It’s not that houses and songs aren’t real, but you don’t just find them in a field someplace and haul them back home with you. They have to be worked at. Made.”
Words of advice, though, The Dagger and the Coin is not a fantasy series filled with battle scenes. The pulse-pounding moments in The Spider’s War and this series can be found in the schemings, politics, relationship dynamics, and compelling dialogues. These are some of Abraham’s main fortes as a writer, not his battle scenes. Reading what drive the characters, and the internal conflicts they have, to do the actions they did bring so much tension to the narrative that battle scenes often fail to replicate. Abraham also widens the scope of the story in The Spider’s War by having Entr’acte’s chapters; these chapters allow the readers to see what’s going on in the world of the series beyond what our main characters are dealing with. Lastly, I also think that The Spider’s War has some of Abraham’s best writing in his career. I highlighted so many passages throughout the series; they’re too good to ignore. For example, in The Spider’s War, there’s a passage about how a war was made from individual lives, and this goes the same for all endeavors. Abraham also gives power to the word “probably,” we frequently think of the word “probably” as being indecisive, but from another perspective, “probably” means we have options and the freedom to choose.
“There’s only one utter ending for each of us, and it isn’t one we reach toward. Until then, it’s the next change, and the next change, and the next. And profound change, even when it’s the one you prayed for, is displacing.”
There’s still a lot of things I want to elaborate upon, but this should suffice; I hope I’ve kept things vague enough in this review. Let me end this review by saying that with The Spider’s War, in addition to The Long Price Quartet and The Expanse, I’ve read 17 novels written by Abraham. At the moment, he’s my fourth most-read author, just after Brandon Sanderson, Robin Hobb, and Jim Butcher. I can’t wait to read more of his books, especially Leviathan’s Fall this year and Age of Ash next year. The Spider’s War ending was so satisfying, and Abraham also left some room in the story to explore should he choose to return to this world. This is one of the most underrated fantasy series I’ve read, and Abraham is a new addition to my growing list of favorite authors. I highly recommend The Dagger and the Coin to readers who want to read a character-driven epic fantasy series that’s different.
The Dagger and the Coin: 20.5/25 stars
You can order the book from: Blackwells (Free International shipping)
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