“A Shadow in Summer” by Daniel Abraham

A Shadow in Summer coverA Shadow in Summer is book 1 of The Long Price Quartet. The empire of Galt has been making war against the entire world with their powerful machines, but the cities of the Khaiem are not afraid. They are protected by their poets who control the andat, physical manifestations of a certain idea bound by the poet’s words. However these poets are growing rare and there is a plot brewing that could undermine the security that the city of Saraykhet has enjoyed for so long. The city’s fate lies in the hands of a poet’s apprentice, a manual labourer, an aging overseer of a merchant house and her young and beautiful apprentice.

There is a gaping plot hole in this book that makes it somewhat hard to enjoy. Skip the next paragraph if you don’t want to be spoiled.

SPOILERS There is a convoluted plot to free Saraykhet’s andat that depend on a very precise sequence of events and a good deal of conjecture. However, a much simpler plot would have been to simply assassinate the city’s poet, who is constantly wandering around the city unprotected and drunk. Since the whole book is centered around this plot, it falls kind of flat. At the end, the poet gets assassinated by one of the good guys to “save the city” – it seems a lame excuse to create internal conflict for the main character. END SPOILERS

Other than the plot hole, though, the book is pretty good. I enjoyed the writing and the characters, especially Amat the extremely competent overseer. It’s not often that you have female characters in their fifties being protagonists in a fantasy novel.

The story is well told, although somewhat matter of fact.  Abraham’s characters are very decisive and pragmatic, almost to a fault – any internal conflict is either resolved or put aside to deal with pressing matters. This makes the book fast reading, but the characters aren’t as likeable or sympathetic, and it made the characters’ actions not really have any impact on me.

I’ll be reading A Betrayal in Winter, but I’m not in any huge rush.

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