The Price of Spring concludes what is now one of my all-time favorite fantasy epics, The Long Price Quartet. Daniel Abraham not only continues his masterful sentence-by-sentence writing, with its vivid descriptions and telling dialogue, but he also maintains the vision that made book 1 (A Shadow in Summer) so compelling. The sweeping ramifications of intimate decisions come to the fore once more in this final volume, reflecting the close-in focus of the first volume. All the things done and suffered by our core characters (Otah, Maati, Eiah, and Idaan chief among them) tie into one theme or another and have significance for the development of the plot. Generally speaking, this is close-knit writing, and its tapestry is a work of wonder.
Being a great lover of theme even above character and plot, I was most impressed with how Abraham bound up every thread of this novel with the main themes of the series. One can surmise from the book titles that the passing of the seasons is the major theme ruling all other themes in this series. The Price of Spring unites the concepts of andat (a living idea) with the passing of the seasons to reflect on the timeless truths of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. No profound revelation is made, but this old truth is resonant and Abraham employs all the best tools of a sensitive writer in all the best ways, so that the final product is a work of beauty and poetry.
Advice to readers: follow the motif of the flower. It appears at least in A Betrayal in Winter (prologue chapter), An Autumn War (one of the final chapters, as well as one of the middle chapters in which Otah launches a doomed assault), and in the epilogue chapter of The Price of Spring. It may have been present in A Shadow in Summer but I missed it since it didn't seem so important at the time. I'd like to elaborate just a bit, so the paragraph that follows will be a SPOILER. Also, apologies if my thoughts are somewhat disjointed below, since the overall tapestry is so delicately woven with an impressively multivalent depth. There is so much symbolic intricacy to ponder that it boggles the mind, and one struggles to subject it to rigorous analysis.
The prologue chapter of A Betrayal in Winter describes a white flower blooming in the courtyard of the Khai's palace in Machi. The flower is spattered with blood, the red standing out against the whiteness of the flower as well as the whiteness of the snow lingering from winter. Spring is just beginning. The end of A Betrayal in Winter sees Otah victorious against his scheming and murderous sister Idaan, who tried to become a Khai by murdering her brothers. She murdered Danat but did not succeed against Otah. Otah is now Khai but pardons his sister, sending her into exile instead of executing her. At the end of the novel, she is walking into the distance across the autumn snows, standing out red against the whiteness of the snow. At the end of An Autumn War, after the devastating war of Balasar Gice against the Khaiem and Maati's shattering mistake of unleashing the andat Seedless's new form, Maati goes into exile in a remote cave in the autumn. Seedless had caused infertility in the men of Galt and the women of the Khaiem. Maati's protégé Eiah nevertheless forgives Maati's mistake and brings him flowers colored orange and yellow -- colors representing both autumn and the city of Machi. It is a reminder of the tragic fall of Machi but also a symbol that there may be hope. Finally, at the end of The Price of Spring, Otah's son Danat (named after his brother who had been slain by Idaan), delivers a funeral eulogy for Otah, speaking of the flower as a metaphor for the passing of seasons both in nature and in human life. He stresses a distinction (using language reminiscent of the old poets when discussing the binding of an andat) between returning and replacement. As Otah himself had realized in the letters he had written to his dead wife, no one ever returns when the springtimes of life come around. Each person, as each flower, dies; but he is replaced in one way or another. With this eulogy, the new Danat marks a new age of mankind, one free from the powers of the andat (with all the possible death implied by that...), and one hopefully also free of the internecine strife of the old Khaiate ways. Note that "Danat" is an anagram of "andat". As each andat newly bound is a variation on an older version of its theme, so too is Otah's son Danat a variation on the uncle that was killed by Idaan; or, perhaps it is better to say that he represents a replacement of the previous generation rather than the old Danat in particular. He won't follow the same path, but he is a nod to the past, and he is Otah's creation, as the andat were the creations of poets. Danat is Otah's instrument for change and the betterment of humanity. Also, just as andat are representations of an idea, summoned by a poetic incantation, so too does Danat speak poetically in the eulogy about springtime. The price of spring was bloodshed, as blood sullied the white flower in Machi's courtyard. The price of spring is also the potential for bloodshed, now that the world is left free of the andat's oppressive enforcement of peace. Peace among the nations is no longer guaranteed. Spring is that time when life is renewed and the military campaign season begins. The new age of the world reflects this co-habitation of life and death.
So, the gist of my review is this: The Long Price Quartet is a masterpiece. I've mentioned in my previous reviews that sometimes there is too much introspection on the part of the characters. This remains my opinion, but it is forgivable because it is not really intrusive. And indeed, being of a more thematic bent myself, I may have overlooked some of the intricacies of character development that these introspections evoke. The way that Daniel Abraham wields symbolism as a narrative tool impressed me like few authors have before. In this respect, he approaches the mastery that Gene Wolfe so effortlessly displays. I am happy that, by the end of this series, my initial Wolfean impression remains. If Wolfe is an idea (or ideal!), then Abraham is a new Wolfean andat, transmitting the core element of symbolic mastery while establishing idiosyncrasies of his own.
Author: Daniel Abraham
Series: The Dagger and the Coin #4
Rating: 3.5 stars
Still a solid series, though I am ready for it to be over.
The villain, Geder, is the most conflicting villain since Darth Vader. Just when I hate him, he does something that makes me feel bad for him. I feel as if Abraham is going somewhere with that, so I have no idea how this turns out.
The female characters kick serious tail (well maybe not literally) and are a force to be reckoned with. I love their strength. And the newest...uh... addition to the cast was worth waiting for.
I will finish this series definitely this year but I need a break.
Overall definitely recommend this series.
It's that time of week again!
I have a busy weekend ahead and it's going to be cold! But these are the books I will be reading into next week.
Right now I'm working on Evergreen - which is a family saga and nice easy read before bed. Just what I was looking for. Though I will admit, I read for 20 minutes past my bedtime cuz I was so engrossed.
The Widow's House- things have picked up and I'm moving along at a nice pace. Such a good series...
The others are Netgalley obligations due this month but ones I really want to read. I didn't read The Star Touched Queen and will attempt to dive into A Crown of Wishes without having done so. When I requested it, I didn't know it was a sequel/companion book. The Star Touched Queen is at my local library. I passed by it when I was there on Tuesday. Hmmm. We'll see how I do.
Hope you all have a great weekend! Happy Reading!
As the title advertises, An Autumn War is the war book of the Long Price Quartet. Book 1 of this epic was the romance, Book 2 was the court intrigue, and Book 3 is the blood and thunder.
As with the preceding books, it molds itself around the seasons, shaping plot threads and character arcs around themes of death, renewal, and the cyclical nature of life. Abraham is quite good at this, as became quickly apparent in A Shadow in Summer (Book 1), which I called "an intimate epic". Abraham's focus on character is unwavering, and many of his protagonists are interesting enough that you really do care what happens to them in the end. Even as the geographic scope of the story widens in this war book, each plot thread is motivated almost exclusively by the desires and frustrations of the various protagonists. In other words, the author never loses that focus on character even when he needs to outline the grand movements of clashing civilizations.
Without getting too spoilery, here are the main points: An Autumn War follows Otah, Maati, Cehmai, Kiyan, and Liat as they now enter their 40s, seemingly the autumn of their lifespan. Most of these protagonists now have children (except Cehmai, for he is Machi's poet) and their concerns are directed toward cultivating the next generation. Meanwhile, a new character, Balasar Gice, a brilliant general from Galt, emerges as a dangerous conqueror bent on upending the world order.
This novel, by itself, carries the story through to a truly thunderous conclusion, sounding faint war-drums in the beginning and slowly bringing the horrors of war closer and closer to the people we identify with as "the good guys", until the terror and violence become overwhelming. Still, not everyone dies, and the stage is set for the final book of the quartet (The Price of Spring). So, as far as this single book goes, it is very good by itself and might almost be read successfully as a stand-alone (but why would you do that?).
As part of the quartet, this book is even better. It adds new layers of symbolism to its ongoing meditations on the seasons, and it continues building its world, further articulating the Cities of the Khaiem while introducing the Galts and the peoples of the Westlands and Eddensea. As for the andat... well, I don't think I can talk about that and avoid spoilers at the same time... let's just say that there are some major changes, and they play into the cycle of the seasons, especially autumn.
Also watch for visual symbols. There is one in the aftermath of the big battle in the middle of the book (involving Otah on the battlefield) and another one some time after the final climactic battle (involving Maati in a cave) -- these two symbols are particularly powerful, the former harking back to another symbol introduced in the prologue chapter of A Betrayal in Winter (a heavily ironic symbol), and the latter seeming to presage hope in the fourth volume while acknowledging the tragedies of the first three. Finally, and most impressively, none of the symbols in these books can be mapped onto a single season, nor do they have valence exclusively with the book that they appear in. They are significant in all the seasons, but, for that, they lose none of their individuality. It's clear to me that Abraham conceived a brilliant idea when he started putting together this series and has brought to the task a great talent for integration, consistency, and beautiful story-telling. I am most eager to read the final volume.