When it comes to writing modern fantasy it appears that authors need to do one of two things. They need to write something unique or edgy, something or a treatment not seen before. A prime example being how J.R.R Tolkien took Norse mythology and turned it into his own mythology of the world or how Brandon Sanderson took the idea of the physics' based magic system and made it his own. The second thing authors can do is to write very, very well: the best examples being E.R.R Eddison or Mervyn Peake. Daniel Abraham may not be a very good writer at the aesthetic level of the aforementioned but he is very good nonetheless, his work here is in fact surprisingly well written with its own unique style.
There is no doubt that The Dragon's Path
is inspired by G.R.R Martin, but with all respects to Martin, I find that this novel performs better than [b:A Game of Thrones|13496|A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)|George R.R. Martin|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1363890943s/13496.jpg|1466917] and the subsequent novels. The main reasons for this are that, though Martin and Abraham have different approaches, Abraham's novel feels like a more solid historical fantasy novel. The world and the characters feel more fleshed out, more realistic and the sense of grittiness isn't perpetrated by a sense of artificiality. This is mostly carried off because Abraham is remarkably subtle with his work and though not ashamed to introduce topics of sexuality, death and war, is mature in his handling of those subjects in a way that is not offensive. In short: Daniel Abraham knows how to write in a way that few other fantasy authors writing now do. In fact the one reason I could not bring myself to give five stars to this novel is that the plot felt lacking in some aspects as part of an entire planned series.
Of course, that provides a segue into discussing the plot itself. The novel is set in a fictionalised world (as is the tendency with these fantasy epics, a nuisance isn't it?). In this fictionalised world the reader finds out that it is a world built upon the ruins of a world populated by dragons. These dragons are now long deceased, having it appeared, help create multiple variations of humans. There is a suggestion of humans like mermaids and human races with tusks in their chins but in this first entry it can be hard to distinguish. In this world, there is the hint of a grand religious destruction set to occur, a destruction alluded to at the beginning and end of the novel. However this is the subplot of the novel and no doubt will feature in the series as a whole.
This particular novel follows a set of four particular characters whose interactions in the world are individual and yet have particular connecting roles which are particularly important in this particular imaginary world. Or to clarify, the four characters are: 1. Marcus Wester - a grizzled old, soldier who at first seems archetypical and later is shown otherwise 2. Cithrin - an orphan taken in by the bank of Vanai and placed in charge of delivering the bank's gold from a war threatened nation 3. Dawson - an advisor and friend of the King of an empire under threat who wishes for nothing more than to uncover traitors to the throne and 4. Geder - Geder is a soft seeming noble scholar who is placed into a difficult environment and proves himself as a hero. Of the characters his viewpoint was perhaps the most fascination, but only just.
Each of the characters in the novel is designed to have both black and white elements to them. In other words to be both a hero and a villain in many regards. The characters each play to the archetypes. Marcus fills the role of the old, war hardened soldier, Cithrin the role of orphan girl, Dawson the role of nobleman with influence towards the king (think Eddard Stark) and Geder as the naive scholar turned hero. Yet, despite the use of tropes or archetypes Abraham manages to create something that is fascinating and well written. Perhaps because instead of allowing the tropes to do all the work of writing for him he uses
the tropes to allow identification with the characters and then proceeds to further develop his storyline. In short there is a level of depth and intrigue to Abraham's work that when compounded with his sensibility and subtlety in handling characters, worldbuilding and plot makes for a fascinating, well handled opening to a series.
Those looking for the next intelligent gritty fantasy should try this novel. I have also heard that Abraham's first series, beginning with [b:A Shadow in Summer|208|A Shadow in Summer (Long Price Quartet, #1)|Daniel Abraham|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1312020105s/208.jpg|1711253], is one of the most unique fantasy novels around currently. And certainly this novel has compelled me to want to read more of Abraham's oeuvre. Abraham can write, he can write well and he understands how to craft a novel that feels like a historical tale (with a sense of magic and intrigue that I have personally found lacking in the denser novels of G.R.R Martin). I would rate this as one of the fantasy novels to check out and Abraham as one of the fantasy authors to watch for the next few years.