A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
|Daniel Abraham broke into the scene in the traditional manner -- with short stories in the magazines. Admittedly, I don't read the magazines, so I completely missed his work. He first came to my attention with his collaborative effort with George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, Shadow Twin.|
I asked George about the collaboration with a relatively unknown author, and he was quick to laud Abraham's talents and tout his soon (at the time) to be released novel, A Shadow in Summer. He said something to the effect of 'relatively unknown for not too much longer.'
High praise, indeed.
So it was with high expectations I purchased the first volume of The Long Price Quartet. My impression, upon reading the novel, was a bit uneven.
The prologue is masterful. It quickly submerges one into an asian-like fantasy world, and gives important background for the tale to come. The tale itself contains murder and magic, politics and war, but the meat of the work is comprised of something more mundane and infinitely more indelible; a love story.
Abraham introduces a fascinating new twist on magic in fantasy. Poets create the words to express an idea and this idea is formed into a corporeal form, called an Andat. A poem can never be used more than once, and so poets are running out of Andat and the words with which to form new ones. As the economy and safety of the society is based upon the powers of the Andat, this is becoming a serious problem. The Andat's are also limited in ther powers based upon the words used to form them.
Also introduced is a secondary method of communication between people revolving around poses and hand gestures. It serves to truly immerse one in this alien world, and I enjoyed the touch very much.
My only real problem with the book was the mysteries incorporated into the plot. Some are incredibly easy to figure out, and some conclusions don't make all that much sense. I really think he needed to explain why a certain character could not be assassinated, and did not.
That said, I truly enjoyed the characters, although I did not neccessarily like any of them. In that, I think, Abraham was courageous in not painting any character white or black. Too often in fantasy we see things like Evil Forces and Great Lords who are pillars of integrity and heroism and brushing their teeth before bedtime, etc.
The world Abraham created, as in all good fantasy, was an intriguing character itself. I was left with a well fleshed out idea of of where the story was taking place, and a good bit of interest in what lay beyond the limits of what was explained.
Asian themes in fantasy, while becoming more popular, are still pretty rare here in the West. Despite critical acclaim for works from Barry Hughart and the like, such settings have never equalled tremendous sales. I believe it was brave for Abraham to write his story in such a setting, and I commend him for it.
A Shadow in Summer is a really good first novel. I look forward to the next volume in the series, and will certainly be keeping an eye on any of Abraham's work in the future.
I would not speculate on this title. While it has a seemingly low print run, it is getting next to no push from TOR. If Abraham goes on to a great career, it could possibly have some decent value. But if that is so, then this will not be his signature book, nor his signature series.