Shadow and Betrayal – Review of Book 1 and 2 of The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham

a shadow in summer

The Long Price Quartet is an interesting entry in the world of fantasy fiction.  It tells us a story of cities which are ruled by Kings and are economically dependent on certain magical creatures who are actually idea-in-physical-form.. or Andats. Andats are bound and guided by  Poets, who conceptualizes and thus ‘creates’ them.

The world in this book strongly resembles medieval Japanese/ Chinese culture. The description of people’s attires, tea-houses, comfort-quarters, the ritual of “pose” to show etiquette, call respected people with certain suffix (“Maati-cha” or “Otah-kvo”), consuming rice or noodles– points to this very cultural reference. The hot port-cities of south and northern cold cities with different class of people and various occupations are penned quite well. And with this mystic Asian setup, the reader starts a journey with the characters when they try to understand their worth and identity and adapt to the changes in their world.

The first book begins at a school where the children who are not wanted in their family are trained, in order to become prospective poet. One of the important characters understands the inherent flaw in this institutionalised system and the ideals of the teachers and leaves. We find him again, in another city, with a new identity and a new life. as the story unfolds, it is certain that a heinous crime is going to take place, a conspiracy conceived from a personal hatred, which in turn can ruin the reputation and economy of the city. The love, lust, jealousy, camaraderie, loyalty of the characters are depicted quite well along with the plot.

a betrayal in winter

In the second book , we see a kingdom where in each generation the princes inevitably start to kill each other once it is understood that the King is dying (so realistic if we remember little bit of world history, eh? ).The story takes place thirteen years after the first book and follows threads of the past. The conspiracy which started in earlier book, now is understood as a major calamity in scale. The series carries a sense of melancholy within.

The Long Price Quartet would intrigue the reader, but it takes its time to really warm up. While reading there was a time when I wondered that who is ‘The One’ — as there are two strong contenders for this and the author gives equal attention to them while character build-up. This is impressive as any fantasy book make you recognise ‘the chosen one’ very easily. Here Abraham successfully holds the interest of the readers and by the end of the first book, it is up to them only to decide that who is the protagonist… or if there is any?

Though the concept of Andat at first reminded me of a shōjo manga ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’, unlike the manga the Andats actually have very distinguishing personalities similar or dissimilar to…nope I’m not giving any more spoilers 🙂 …about which the readers would want to know more as they read on.

Also, I felt this is not a young-adult series. The mature readers would be able to grasp the complexity of the characters and the change in the characters’ world. Abraham gives equal importance to the point of view and psyche of the individuals, thus succeeds in portraying  attractive characters. The descriptions helps the adult readers to paint a picture of the city and the houses, the roads and the shops, the palatial gardens and the people.. all of which may seem slow-paced to an young-adult reader. Lastly, the gory details of killings, the solicitations and intercourse, the hatred and the betrayal, the convictions and the two-mindedness’s.. all shaped up in a complicated way which is not something we generally find in a young-adult fiction, nor that can be absorbed by that particular reader-group. A more mature brain with a love of fantasy can, certainly.

So… highly recommended ! Can’t wait to finish the last two. 🙂

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