The first book in the fantasy series Long Price Quartet.

Publication year: 2006
Format: Print
Page count: 331
Publisher: TOR

This is book is centered on political scheming. It doesn’t have adventure or fight scenes. Instead, it focuses on characters.

The story starts with a prologue which is set in a cold and cruel school for young boys. It’s also very necessary in order to understand some of the characters and the magic system.

Amat Kyaan is the senior overseer, an accountant of sorts, for one of the large trading houses in the city of Saraykeht. She’s an elderly woman who has dedicated her whole life to her career. When she realizes that her employer is going behind her back with one deal, she makes sure she knows what’s going on. That turns her life upside down.

Liat is Amat’s young apprentice. She’s just seventeen but has ambitions of rising to Amat’s position. Her lover Itani is a common laborer and Liat is worried that his low station will reflect poorly on her. So, when Amat gives Itani a chance to do a small favor for her (and Liat’s) employer, Liat makes sure Itani takes it.

Itani is, indeed, a laborer. He has also a secret and isn’t interested in rising to higher position in life, but wants to please Liat whom he loves.

Maati is a young man who has just come to the city. He’s the apprentice of the poet (the equivalent of magician in this world) and he has spent most of his life in a male-only school learning as much as he can. The court and the politics are all new to him.

Eventually, we also get the POV of Amat’s employer, Marchat Wilsin. Marchat isn’t a native of Saraykeht but a barbarian from the North. His superiors are forcing him to a scheme that makes him loose sleep at night.

All the characters are very deep and I found them interesting, especially Amat because there aren’t many older women in fantasy books and even fewer as POV characters. The culture where the story is set has been inspired by Asian cultures rather than the usual Western Middle-Ages. It’s also a culture based on indentured servitude and downright slavery.

The magic system is unique and can’t really be summed up quickly. Briefly, a poet (the magician) forces an artistic idea to a human form. Then the poet controls the resulting creature and does magic through it. This isn’t easy and many prospective poets fail (and die). The creature, called an andat, develops human feelings and thoughts.

The writing is beautiful, full of great images. It also explores ideas. However, the pacing is pretty slow at times.

The world-building was very interesting and I didn’t mind the slow plot too badly. But I really didn’t care for the love triangle or some of the other stuff that happened later. I guess it’s just too depressing to read right now.

Abraham is half of the writing team of James S. A. Corey who write the Expanse SF series. However, that style is a very different from this book.