My Favourite Book of 2009
A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham was the last novel I read in 2009, but also the best novel I read in 2009. Abraham’s debut is a quiet story that follows the personal struggles of several characters as they deal with such mature themes as love and trust, abortion and alcohohlism, betrayal and justice. It manages to be a wholly adult novel while eschewing the typical blood, guts and sex that defines ‘gritty’ Fantasy these days. A Shadow in Summer shows how far the Fantasy genre can go if an author is willing to throw convention to the wind. I will absolutely be continuing with the series in 2010. (REVIEW)
A Shadow in Summer
Author – Daniel Abraham
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: March 7th, 2006
Daniel Abraham is not as well known as Patrick Rothfuss, nor does he sell as many books as Brandon Sanderson, and he lacks the mass market appeal of Joe Abercrombie, but, like these contemporaries, his debut series, The Long Price Quartet, has helped shaped the face of modern Fantasy in the twenty-first century. Where Abraham sets himself apart from these other authors, though, is his ability to shatter the preconceptions of the genre and show that Fantasy is so much more than fireballs, sword fights and Dark Lords.
Despite being familiar with Abraham, and following his career quite closely over the past few years, this was my first experience with any of his long fiction. It wasn’t that I was uninterested in The Long Price Quartet, quite the opposite, but rather that I was saving it for a special occasion, when I was feeling burned out on the genre. Because of this two-year-long build up, and the countless other raving reviews floating around the Internet, my expectations were (perhaps unfairly) high. Having now finished A Shadow in Summer, the first volume of the quartet, I can say without reservation that all my expectations were surpassed. Frankly, it’s hard to believe that A Shadow in Summer is a debut novel, and not the work of a novelist with a dozen novels under their belt. Abraham’s novel is confident, and the writing shows a maturity that’s rare in the genre. It’s frightening to think of how accomplished Abraham will be when he does have a dozen novels under his belt.
I’m in the final pages of Daniel Abraham‘s A Shadow in Summer and am absolutely in love. The Cambist and Lord Iron, which first appeared in 2007′s Logorrhea Anthology and is included in his upcoming short-fiction collection, Leviathan Wept, is different in tone than The Long Price Quartet, but it’s still a great introduction to Abraham’s work (or a great read, if you’re already familiar with him.
Born Edmund Scarasso, Lord Iron had taken his father’s title and lands and ridden them first to war, then to power, and finally to a notorious fame. His family estate outside the city was reputed to rival the king’s, but Lord Iron spent little time there. He had a house in the city with two hundred rooms arranged around a central courtyard garden in which trees bore fruits unfamiliar to the city and flowers bloomed with exotic and troubling scents. His servants were numberless as ants; his personal fortune greater than some smaller nations. And never, it was said, had such wealth, power, and influence been squandered on such a debased soul.
No night passed without some new tale of Lord Iron. Ten thousand larks had been killed, their tongues harvested, and their bodies thrown aside in order that Lord Iron might have a novel hors d’oeuvre. Lord Biethan had been forced to repay his family’s debt by sending his three daughters to perform as Lord Iron’s creatures for a week; they had returned to their father with disturbing, languorous smiles and a rosewood cask filled with silver as “recompense for his Lordship’s overuse.” A fruit seller had the bad fortune not to recognize Lord Iron one dim, fog-bound morning, and a flippant comment earned him a whipping that left him near dead.
There was no way for anyone besides Lord Iron himself to know which of the thousand stories and accusations that accreted around him were true. There was no doubt that Lord Iron was never seen wearing anything but the richest of velvets and silk. He was habitually in the company of beautiful women of negotiable virtue. He smoked the finest tobacco and other, more exotic weeds. Violence and sensuality and excess were the tissue of which his life was made. If his wealth and web of blackmail and extortion had not protected him, he would no doubt have been invited to the gallows dance years before. If he had been a hero in the war, so much the worse.
And so it was, perhaps, no surprise that when his lackey and drinking companion, Lord Caton, mentioned in passing an inconvenient curiosity of the code of exchange, Lord Iron’s mind seized upon it. Among his many vices was a fondness for cruel pranks. And so it came to pass that Lord Iron and the handful of gaudy revelers who followed in his wake descended late one Tuesday morning upon the Magdalen Gate postal authority.
You can download a PDF of the story HERE (right/Option click, save as) or listen to an audio version HERE.
I’ve posted a few covers for China Mieville’s The City and The City, and they’ve been top quality each time. This one, the UK paperback release, is clearly targeting a non-Fantasy audience, as it should, given the crime/thriller/fantasy crossover nature of the novel, but it’s a striking image nonetheless (especially in person; I just recieved a copy). It perfectly captures the tone of the novel. My only gripe is that I’d like to have seen the two structures bordering the figure look slightly different from one another, given the main conceit of the novel.
Whatever you celebrate this time of year, I hope it brings much joy to you, your family and your friends. Merry Christmas from A Dribble of Ink.