The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham

The Dragon’s Path

AuthorDaniel Abraham

Trade Paperback
Pages: 592
Publisher: Orbit Books
Release Date: April 7th, 2011
ISBN-10: 0316080683
ISBN-13: 978-0316080682


In June of 2010, I threw a bit of a fit. I’d learned that not only was Tor Books not going to be publishing anymore novels by Daniel Abraham, they weren’t even going to do his fans the service of releasing the final volume of his The Long Price Quartet in paperback. I went on record, then, saying that Tor would regret letting the promising author go, that they were foolish to let such a promising young writer slip through their fingers.

Orbit Books wasted no time in snapping up Abraham and immediately announcing The Dagger and the Coin, a new series completely unrelated to The Long Price Quartet and set within a more familiar frame that was sure to appeal to the casual Fantasy fan that is so important in ensuring Abraham’s continued and inevitable rise through the genre. Tor made a mistake in letting him go and there’s no better proof of that than The Dragon’s Path, the first volume of The Dagger and the Coin.

As a fan of The Long Price Quartet, it’s difficult to consider The Dragon’s Path without drawing comparisons between the two. Throwing aside the unfamiliar world of his first series, The Dragon’s Path places the reader in a world heavily inspired by 15th Century Europe and populates it with 13 distinct races (comprising ‘humanity’), each rising from the ashes of the long-crumbled Dragon Empire . It’s somewhat alarming to see Abraham working with such twee Fantasy conventions, but with a little bit of faith, one soon realizes that this is no retelling of The Belgariad or The Lord of the Rings, but very much its own beast. There is an equal shift in the tone of the story and the characters met. When first describing The Dagger and the Coin, Abraham wrote:

The glib way I’ve been describing it is that I wrote my tragedy first, now I’m writing my adventure

And it’s absolutely true. When I first heard about The Dragon’s Path, and despite my initial alarm, I was nearly giddy at the idea of Abraham turing his attentions to a more traditional tale. Sure, it sounds silly, given that I love his other work so dearly for its originality and the way it confidently sticks out from a crowded Fantasy market; but, bottom line, it is one of my favourite authors working in one of my favourite sub-genres. A combination I would find it impossible not to be excited about.

At its heart, The Dragon’s Path is still absolutely an Abraham novel. Though the story features drunken pranks, dragons, priests with giant swords, siege warfare and an ‘evil’ cult following a spider goddess, it also deals heavily with the economics of war, the emotional toll of growing up and being repeatedly push to the dirt, the politics that boil under the surface of any successful kingdom and the subtleties of human relationships. And the characters, as I’ve come to expect from Abraham’s work, are where the novel truly shines.

Abraham manages to weed out those little mannerisms, those little ticks of character and setting that are so important in getting to know a person or a place, and reveals them to the reader quietly. One of the major roadblocks in dialogue in literature is that so much of the important communication happens through body language, yet so many authors use only the words spoken to reveal the relationships between their characters. Abraham manages to let us know so much about the characters through not only their words, but also through these little actions that define them. A small smile here, or a nervous habit there. Other authors try at this, but unlike Robert Jordan’s braid-tugging, Abraham’s prose and between-the-lines dialogue never feels bloated or unnecessary. It’s simply another level to the story that weaves organically between the other aspects of the prose.

An example:

“Why do you apologize for everything you say?” she asked.

Master Kit turned to her, bushy eyebrows hoisted.

“I wasn’t aware that I did,” he said.

“You just did it again,” Cithrin said. “You never say anything straight out. It’s all I believe this or I’ve found that. You never say, The sun rises in the morning. It’s always, I think the sun rises in the morning. It’s like you’re trying not to promise anything.

Master Kit went sober. His dark eyes considered her. Cithrin felt a chill run down her spine, but it wasn’t fear. It was like being on the edge of finding something that she’d only guessed was there. Master Kit rubbed a palm across his chin. The sound was soft and intimate and utterly mundane.

“I’m surprised you noticed that,” he said, then smiled at having done it again. “I have a talent for being believed, and I’ve found it problematic. I suppose I’ve adopted habits to soften the effect, and so I try not to assert things unless I’m certain of them. Absolutely certain, I mean. I’m often surprised by how little I’m absolutely certain of.”

“That’s an odd choice,” Cithrin said.

“And it encourages me to take myself lightly,” Master Kit said. “I find a certain value in lightness.”

“I wish I could,” she said. The despair in her voice surprised her, and then she was weeping. (p. 251 of ARC)

There are few authors whose prose I enjoy more than Abraham’s. He manages to be both plain and endlessly deep. He has the ability to touch on descriptions and characters with only a few words where other authors would devote paragraphs. With that, he’s able to pack so much into his novels that it makes writers like Robert Jordan or Brandon Sanderson seem incredibly obtuse and self-indulgent. Abraham packs more story and character into a third of the word count of those industry giants.


Cithrin walked through the streets of Vanai, her stomach in knots. The false mustache was the sort of thin, weedy thing a callow boy might cultivate and be proud of. Her clothes were a mix of Besel’s shirts and jackets resewn in the privacy of the bank and whatever cheap, mended rags could be scrounged. They hadn’t dared to buy anything new. Her hair was tea-stained to an almost colorless brown and combed forward to obscure her face. She walked with the wider gait Magister Imaniel had taught her, a knot of uncomfortable cloth held tight against her sex to remind her that she was supposed to have a cock. (p. 47 of ARC)


Dawson looked at his childhood friend. The months of winter had etched a frown into the corners of his mouth and left grey at his temples like the first frost. Or perhaps the signs of age and weakness had always been there, and Dawson hadn’t been willing to see them until now. The jewel-studded robes that Simeon wore—even the crown itself—looked less like the raiments of power and greatness than they had in the autumn. Instead they were the empty form of it, like a dry pitcher waiting to be filled. (p. 211 of ARC)

From Cithrin’s naivety to Dawson’s jaded politicking, it’s crude and sophisticated by turns, matching the necessary tone of the scene and revealing in small pieces how the characters view the world and their situation. There’s never a word out of place and even the most off-hand thoughts, observances or actions always have weight behind them.

Structurally, Abraham adopts a style that’s been popularized in recent years by authors like Joe Abercrombie and George R.R. Martin. The plot progresses via multiple view-point characters—sometimes half-a-world apart, sometimes sharing the same cramped cellar—and alternates between Geder’s politically charged story of princes and warfare, and Cithrin’s struggle to move a fortune half-way across the world. The characters sometimes cross paths and seeing the situations through multiple sets of eyes sheds light on the tale that wouldn’t be possible with a more traditional single point-of-view storytelling method.

As mentioned, the world Abraham’s created leans much more heavily towards the traditional stylings of classic authors like Raymond Feist or Tad Williams and contemporary authors like the aforementioned Joe Abercrombie or Scott Lynch. Magic is still only on the periphery of the tale, but the prologue and the later portions of Geder’s story hint that there are big things to come as magic emerges and finds a greater foothold among the thirteen races.

Speaking of the races, Abraham’s split ‘humanity’ into many different races. Some, like the Firstblood, Tralgu and Cinnae are heavily featured, while others, like the Timzinae, the Drowned and the Yemmu play almost no part. One criticism often heaped on The Long Price Quartet is that the ‘poses’, a cultural touchstone used by the characters to express their emotions, were hard to grasp; I can see a similar criticism being placed on The Dagger and the Coin regarding the thirteen races. Like magic, there are hints that the various races, and their origins, will play an important part later in the series, but I often had trouble separating them in my head and could rarely remember their physical appearances, especially given that they’re all (with the exception, perhaps, of the Drowned) human in their emotions, attitudes and personalities. Even a simple glossary breaking down the different races would have gone a long way towards easing the reader into the world.

Captain Marcus Wester, the third major view-point character, stays rather static throughout the novel, but his relationship to Cithrin and how it plays with the ghosts of his past, is interesting and I look forward to seeing how their relationship grows through the course of the next several novels. On the flip side, Cithrin and Geder both grow in leaps and bounds as they overcome the adversity heaped upon them. Geder’s transformation is very direct and reminiscent of a typical coming-of-age tale familiar to fans of Fantasy (and provides the thrust of storyline that appears to be setting up the main conflict of the series), while Cithrin’s development is much quieter; it’s very satisfying to watch her grow from a young girl to a confident, but toubled woman. Abraham’s characterization is always a strong point of his novels. Unlike many of the Fantasy novels that Abraham cites as an inspiration for The Dagger and the Coin (like Eddings’ The Belgariad, oddly enough), growing older and more adult introduces as many problems as it solves. In particular, it’s heartbreaking to watch Cithrin deal with everything from heartbreak to alcoholism as she struggles to grow up more quickly than any 17-year-old should ever have to. Her transformation from the novel’s beginning to its end is easily one of the highlights among many great moments.

Of all the novels (confirmed) to be released in 2011, The Dragon’s Path was, by a wide margin, my most anticipated. Of course, such anticipation is always a double-edged sword. Abraham took many chances with The Long Price Quartet and formed a dedicated (if small) following for those novels and what he managed to accomplish. By moving to a more traditional world and a more tried-and-true premise, Abraham is sure to make wary some of those fans who appreciated the originality of The Long Price Quartet; at the same time, he’s blown open the doors for a new, wider audience and has written a more accessible novel that is sure to appeal to fans of Tad Williams, George R.R. Martin or Scott Lynch. Regardless of whether you’ve discovered Abraham previously, you can rest assured that The Dragon’s Path is a tremendous novel and Abraham deftly mixes the classic foundations of the genre with a sophistication expected of him and rarely found in the work of his compatriots. Look for this one to appear on my ‘Best of 2011’ list come year-end.

  • Scott January 31, 2011 at 7:23 am

    What a great review and it is really nice to know that this books stacks up! The portions of prose you posted were really nice and I look forward to reading this myself when it comes out. Thanks for the early look sir!

  • Okai January 31, 2011 at 7:46 am

    I’m curious as to how many books this series will be. I seem to remember reading somewhere that this series was going to be 10 books. Is this true? Consider me excited for this series! Though I’ve only just begun to read his Long Price Quartet.

  • aidan January 31, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Thanks, Scott!

    @ Okai — I *think* it’s projected at five books. I’ll ask Abraham in the interview we’re working on. It should go live next week.

  • LEC January 31, 2011 at 8:09 am

    For the most part you’ve expressed pretty much how I felt about this book. THE DRAGON’S PATH was great, but now I can’t wait for THE KING’S BLOOD. Really nice review!

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Aidan Moher, Fantasy. Fantasy said: RT @adribbleofink: New Blog Post — My review of THE DRAGON’S PATH by Daniel Abraham, published by @orbitbooks: […]

  • We’re back! | January 31, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    […] in celebration, we’ve got the first full-length review of The Dragon’s […]

  • Blake Charlton January 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    bring it on!

  • Melissa (My words and pages) January 31, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Okay, this book is on my WANT list. I am sooo looking forward to this one. And I have to say I have not read any of the first series, yet.

    But in reading this post I was already hooked in coming in. Then I read dragons – line. Then you mentioned Feist – sinker. I am going to waiting for this one.

    Hook, line, sinker. Well, now it’s time to reel me in. Now I just need to buy the book. Thanks for the amazing review!

  • Tyson Perna January 31, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    I’m so excited for this one. Great review. I appreciate that your do more than recap the plot in your reviews.

  • Foreverlad January 31, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Fantastic review Aidan. I’ll admit to being one of the fans of LPQ who had some initial concerns about The Dragon’s Path, but between excerpts, samples and early reviews, I’m willing to admit being a fool, graciously, in fact.
    While I should admit to disappointment in The Dragon’s Path not getting a hardcover release, I think the lower price might benefit potential sales.

  • Mel January 31, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    I absolutely fell in love with Abraham’s Long Price Quartet series. I’m kind of shock to hear that TOR let him go. Good for Orbit for picking up such a marvelous talent. This book is a sure buy for me. My most anticipated book for 2011, April can’t come soon enough.

    Thanks for the wonderful review.

  • Ryan January 31, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Very nice review. I really appreciate the in-depth look at this novel, and the quotations that illustrate your points. Sadly, I haven’t gotten around to reading Abraham yet. His LPQ series sounds interesting, but I’ve always felt like it might not be my cup of tea. This book/series sounds like it falls under my reading umbrella. I definitely wanna check this one out.

  • Rob B February 1, 2011 at 6:29 am

    Terrific review Aidan. I’ve a feeling I’ll be catching up with a lot of Daniel’s books this year.

  • Jim Cormier February 3, 2011 at 6:37 am

    What’s unfortunate is that despite all of the great new authors that seem to have sprung up in the last few years, the criticisms leveled against Abraham (and presumably Tor’s decision to drop him) suggest that the genre is still in a sad state. I’ve only just finished A Shadow in Summer, but I can’t see how anyone of even marginal intelligence would have trouble “grasping” the poses Abraham worked into the primary culture. He describes it organically but in a way that makes it perfectly obvious how the custom works. It also seems inspired, at least in part, by the nuances of Japanese bowing, something that many people might know anyway. The feeling of some that readers might not understand something this basic seems to be another example of the publishing world vastly underestimating its audience and prioritizing the lowest common denominator.

    I remember reading reviews of the Long Price Quartet before beginning the first book: most of them mentioned how amazing it was that Abraham worked economics into the plot of his story. Going into it I was expecting some kind of complex, macroeconomic subplot involving finance and evil market influence. I was surprised to find that the “economics” referenced by the reviews referred to the simple (but effective) point that the Khaiem, having yet to invent the cotton gin, rely upon their andat to clean the seeds from cotton instantly, thereby making them a dominant force in the cotton market.

    It’s a great idea, it works, and I respect Abraham’s originality and talent, but the fact that this was seemingly all viewed (at least by publishers and some critics) as being beyond the grasp of fantasy readers is sad. The reason we don’t have more authors like Abraham is not because they don’t exist but because so few publishing houses are willing to take risks on stories that don’t fit a stereotypical fantasy pattern.

    Even writers like Joe Abercrombie, whose work I love, seem to have become the successes they were because they were willing to work from the inside out: writing something that bore the hallmarks of traditional epic fantasy but twisted to produce something new.

    It makes me wonder: do publishers see fantasy fans as somehow “dumber” than science fiction? I can think of any number of science fiction stories that involve extremely complex scientific and even economic ideas, yet those authors aren’t set apart for those complexities.

  • […] Review: The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham, read by A Dribble of Ink […]

  • brandon S. February 7, 2011 at 7:26 am

    Jim: I don’t know if you know this but it seems you’ve stirred up quite a discussion/ruckus over in another blog post where your comment is being discussed. just so you know.

  • Raul Gonzalez February 8, 2011 at 2:03 am

    Of all the reviews (confirmed) to be posted in 2011, Aidan Moher’s review of The Dragon’s Path was, by a wide margin, my most anticipated. Of course, such anticipation is always a double-edged sword. Moher took many chances with his Cover Art posts and formed a dedicated (if small) following for those topics and what he managed to accomplish. By moving to a more traditional blog post and a more tried-and-true premise, Moher is sure to make wary some of those fans who appreciated the originality of the Cover Art posts; at the same time, he’s blown open the doors for a new, wider audience and has written a more accessible post that is sure to appeal to fans of Werthead, The Speculative Scotsman or Neth Space. Regardless of whether you’ve discovered Moher previously, you can rest assured that his review of The Dragon’s Path is a tremendous post and Moher deftly mixes the classic foundations of blogging with a sophistication expected of him and rarely found in the work of his compatriots. Look for this one to appear on my ‘Best of 2011′ list come year-end.

  • aidan February 8, 2011 at 6:52 am

    Aww, shucks, Raul. Glad to know I was able to keep my die-hard fans happy!

    PS Good luck on the soccer pitch, I am, in turn, a huge fan of yours!

  • […] and characters, but art is only one half of the equation and Daniel Abraham’s (author of The Dragon’s Path) adaptation of the text should be top-notch. 0 […]

  • […] Read my full review of The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham. […]

  • ted williams January 16, 2012 at 6:59 am

    Where would one find a copy of the last book in The Long Price War? The last i saw was a HB priced $950.00!! What’s up? Are there any trade copies or anything after the Tor dismissal???

  • aidan January 16, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Nothing yet from Tor, though they *are* re-issuing the series as a two-volume set at some point in the future, which will be the best way to get copies of the novels. For the meantime, you could order the Orbit UK omnibus containing the final two novels:

  • […] all know how much I like Daniel Abraham’s novels.Like, say, The Dragon’s Path. You should too. The King’s Blood, the second volume in Abraham’s The Dagger and the […]

  • […] there are some of my favourite new authors, like Daniel Abraham (serious, his latest series is tremendous), David Anthony Durham and Lev Grossman, along with many of the writers that inspired me and first […]

  • […] for novels that draw inspiration from familiar elements and novels. Of The Dragon’s Path, I said: [A]nticipation is always a double-edged sword. Abraham took many chances with The Long Price […]