The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Dagger and the Coin (Book #1 of 5)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 577 pages (Kindle edition)
Published: 7th April 2011 by Orbit
There’s a charm in Abraham’s writing and the stories he tells that just keeps me coming back for more. And the same can be said for The Dragon’s Path.
Daniel Abraham is one of my most read authors. Not including novellas and short stories, I’ve read twelve novels by him; eight from The Expanse, and four from The Long Price Quartet. This makes The Dragon’s Path, the first book in The Dagger and the Coin series, the thirteenth novel of his that I read. Is he included in my list of favorite authors? Not yet, but I have a feeling he’s about to after I’m done with this series.
“Changes that came suddenly could feel catastrophic even when they were changes for the better.”
The Dragon’s Path follows the story of five main characters. The mercenary an ex-soldier Captain Marcus Wester; Cithrin bel Sarcour, an orphan and ward of a banking house. Cithrin is a natural in the life of commerce and trades, and she has a job to smuggle a nation’s wealth across a war zone. Then we also follow Geder Palliako, a scion of a noble house with a huge interest in philosophy and the history of the world. These three characters have the biggest spotlights, and finally, there’s also Dawson Kalliam and his wife, Clara Kalliam. Honestly, The Dragon’s Path was not an easy read for me. It goes without saying that the reception in quality is always subjective, but Abraham doesn’t write a first installment that will appeal to the general market of readers. A lot of readers have mentioned they couldn’t read past A Shadow in Summer and The Dragon’s Path, and I totally understand. I personally found that Daniel Abraham’s way of handling his first installment to be an occasional test of patience. There were several instances in the first half of the novel where I genuinely almost gave up reading, and if I hadn’t read Long Price Quartet, I probably would’ve.
“That’s one of the things Yardem used to tell me that actually made sense. He said that you don’t go through grief like it was a chore to be done. You can’t push and get finished quicker. The best you can do is change the way you always do, and the time comes when you aren’t the same person who was in pain.”
This isn’t to say that you have to read Long Price Quartet or The Expanse to enjoy this; The Dagger and the Coin isn’t related at all. However, if you’ve read Long Price Quartet, then you’ll know that Abraham non-conventional fantasy offers satisfying progression and conclusion. His books may not be the most accessible epic fantasy series, but they’re incredibly rewarding. Abraham’s storytelling style is character-driven in every sense; if you’re not a fan of character-driven fantasy, I highly doubt you’ll enjoy this novel. In the first half, it was difficult for me to feel invested in the characters; stakes seemed low, and the direction of the plot seemed invisible. Abraham’s writing has always been slow-burn, but if you think this one felt too slow, A Shadow in Summer might be a cure for your insomnia. As predicted, though, the second half fixed the issues I had with the book. The seemingly plotless narrative also ended up working nicely. The character development was wonderfully done. By the end of The Dragon’s Path, I ended up feeling super invested with ALL the POV characters. An author that can deliver a powerful 180 degrees shift in the reader’s feeling is an author to watch out for. I’m serious; I grew from complete disinterest to complete investment. All Marcus, Geder, Cithrin, Dawson, and Clara have believable character development, and their stories became so engaging.
“I didn’t tell you. Men don’t put their burdens on their children. I didn’t tell your mother. It isn’t hers to bear. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Abraham has mentioned that his fascination with medieval banking played a role in his creation of this series. Books like Medici Money by Tim Parks, House of Niccolo by Dorothy Dunnett, and of course, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, and more influenced his writing on The Dragon’s Path. We, fantasy readers, are often intrigued by war scenes and the repercussions of wars; these are here, the dragons are a thing of the past, and despite their disappearances, it seems like the world is still leaning towards war and destruction. What’s unique about this book, though, is the machinations and importance of the economy in supplying the war itself. Banking is something we don’t frequently see in epic fantasy books, and Abraham was able to make the conflict surrounding it so interesting. Another fantasy novel I can think of right now that focuses highly on an accountant and economy is The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson, and that one—despite the high praises—was utterly boring to me.
“The dragons didn’t fall because there was a war. There was a war because there wasn’t a leader. A family needs a father, and a kingdom needs a king. It is your duty to lead, and if you fail in that, the day will come when they follow someone else. Then we will be on the dragon’s path.”
I’ve mentioned times and times again that if GRRM ever thinks of looking for a replacement to write A Song of Ice and Fire, Daniel Abraham should be the one to do it. His prose and style definitely reminded me of Martin, and I think he will be able to deliver a satisfying conclusion, but that’s a theory for another day. Having experienced Abraham’s reputation on The Long Price Quartet and also The Expanse, I am positive that The Dragon’s Path is a setup for greater things to come in the series. The first half was indeed difficult, even boring sometimes, but I have no doubt the rest of the series will be worth it. I look forward to reading The King’s Blood soon.
“I remember he used to say that there are two ways to meet the world. You go out with a blade in your hand or else with a purse… In the larger sense, there’s always more lost in the fight than there is won. The way he said things, it sounded like we were all that kept the swords in their scabbards. War or trade. Dagger and coin. Those were the two kinds of people.”
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