This third installment of Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet is definitely more than the sum of its predecessors, both of them outstanding books: where the first two parts of this series introduced the world in which the action unfolds, and fleshed out the characters peopling it, An Autumn War brings all these elements to fruition in a tale that is both enthralling and satisfying.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this series has been the notion of the andats, the anthropomorphic manifestations of complex thoughts or ideas summoned to life by the "poets", specially trained people able to give them substance and control them. Andats like Seedless - the creature that can "remove the part that continues" and is employed by the cotton growers to remove the seed from raw cotton so that the weavers can easily process the material; or Stone-Made-Soft, dedicated to mining and effortless tunneling. These constructs require a constant vigilance though, because like all unwilling slaves they hunger for freedom and are not averse to dangerous or deadly trickery.
The Khaiem, the eastern-like, feudal culture deployed over several city-states, has used the andats for generations, relying on them to the point that no other way of life is deemed possible, to the point that the loss of a city's andat means ruin and decadence. While their historical adversaries, the Galt, see the creatures as a danger and an obstacle to progress, and are determined to rid the world of them.
This is the nature of the conflict built over the previous two books and that finds here its culmination: what is fascinating is that the main opponents - Otah, Khai of the city-state of Machi and General Gice, the Galt commander bent on destroying the andats - are both honorable men, and likeable, complex characters, who want the best for their own peoples. The unexpected, tragic way in which the conflict is resolved opens the road to future promising developments, since the aftermath will require huge adjustments from both cultures. The last book in the saga will no doubt be quite interesting...
The more I read of Abraham's work, the more I appreciate his storytelling style, simple and elegant, with rich descriptions that paint a complex, fascinating picture. The best feature of this saga comes from his choice to forgo the usual (and in my opinion over-used) medieval-like setting, to create a culture resembling that of ancient Japan - complete with structured hand gestures ("poses") that convey subtle layers of meaning. This new approach, combined with a minimal but expressive prose, makes for a compelling reading that never fails to leave me wanting for more.