The Price of Spring – Daniel Abraham

The_Price_of_Spring_-_Daniel_Abraham_cover
Long Price Quartet #4

The cities of the Khaiem are without andats – the concepts-made-physical that can be controlled by poets and that gave the Empire its strength. The last andat, Sterile, took away the generative powers of the women of the Khaiem, and of the men of Galt. Now, Otah, reluctant Emperor of the Khaiem is trying to form a complex alliance with Galt. Maati, his one-time friend and poet, is trying to bind new andats. Their inevitable clash will bring both nations to their knees.

A Shadow in Summer, the first book of Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet, was one of the first e-books I read – a promotional PDF I picked up from Tor along with Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn. It took me a while to get around to reading Shadow, because, after all, who wants to read a PDF? (Something I wish publishers understood today.) Happily for me, and perhaps less so for Mr. Abraham, there was a discount bookstore near my house, and when I saw book two of the series available cheap, I finally took the plunge. I’m glad I did. That first book was the start of an excellent and innovative series that concludes with this book, The Price of Spring.

Shadow was an eye-opener in terms of tone, setting, and concept. While the elements weren’t entirely novel, the combination certainly was. Much to my pleasure, Abraham’s skill continued across the series. Every book had solid characters, beautiful writing, and intricate but clear plotting. The same is true of this closing volume.

I wish that Abraham had chosen a less traditional “men rule, women support” world for his series. In this final volume, he contracts Heinlein-Jordan syndrome, in which men are blind, and women are wise – but men still make the decisions. Luckily, it’s a mild case, and there are also strong, self-willed women playing a part. Some of the gender-related crises feel manufactured, but can be accepted with a little effort.

Abraham ties up the ends of the story with a thoroughness that at times seems trite and slightly mechanical – things wrap around to their beginnings in a way that satisfies but also feels shallow. I didn’t feel the depth of emotion that I expected to, and to some extent that’s true of the entire book – it feels (somewhat ironically, given the use of steam engines as a theme) as if the series is running out of steam. There’s enough here, however, to get us to the end successfully and without lagging.

This final book doesn’t have quite the depth that it should have, though Abraham gives it a solid try. As the capstone to a truly excellent series, though, The Price of Spring is extremely strong, and well worth your time. I strongly recommend the series.

Abraham is known these days as the co-author of the Expanse series – the first book of which was unconvincing and overly complex. It’s the Long Price Quartet that he should be known for instead. While it may not be easily convert to TV, Long Price is the kind of series that an author might hope to crown a career with. While not all of Abraham’s books have turned out so well, this series is proof that he’s a writer of extraordinary talent.

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