BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Events move apace in this sequel to The Dragon’s Path, as tumultuous events continue to dramatically shape the fallen Dragon Empire.
PROS: Much appreciated deepening of the worldbuilding; fascinating development of characters.
CONS: A couple of plot turns and character meetings seem overly convenient; a less-than-crisp ending.
BOTTOM LINE: A strong sequel to The Dragon’s Path, deepening and building the world and characters in the Dagger and Coin universe
In the wake of rises to power, the schemes of a girl who would be a banker, and the machinations of the priests of a mysterious Goddess, war and conflict continue to escalate across the Western Lands. Cithrin, Marcus, Geder and the rest will not be unmarked, and unchanged, by the building conflicts. This is The King’s Path, the second in Daniel Abraham’s Dagger and Coin series after the Dragon’s Path.
It’s always difficult to speak too much at length about specifics of plot and development in sequels — especially Epic Fantasy sequel — without giving the original away. In this, The King’s Blood is no different. Events do unfold from the first novel, starting some months from the conclusion of the first book. In a “cut to the good parts” move, Abraham chooses his start point so that he sets up his characters for immediate change. War escalates and personal conflicts erupt like volcanoes, altering in unexpected ways what looked like otherwise smooth trajectories of character arcs. Abraham is willing to put his point-of-view of characters through wringers, and not all of them from the first novel survive the events of The King’s Blood. Those that do all show development, often surprising even themselves.
The major focus and strong point of this novel (discussable at length without major spoilers) is the worldbuilding. The first volume of the Dagger and the Coin series was rather thin on the worldbuilding, as I’ve noted in my review of The Dragon’s Path. The balance between telling a good story and making characters that have agency is a difficult one. The first volume didn’t quite get that balance right. Happily, the second volume does. The thirteen races of man — rubber-headed aliens at best in the first volume — come alive in The King’s Blood. We get to see real differences between the various races. The Cinnae, Tralgu, Jasuru and others come alive, and it’s easier to see how the various point-of-view characters match and transcend their racial characteristics.
In addition to the worldbuilding of the various races, readers get a lot more background on the world itself. Content to have less action scenes and more exposition in The King’s Blood, we get deeper understanding of the machinations and long standing conflicts between the various kingdoms. The geopolitical map we get in this volume is much clearer than its predecessor, even as that map and its pieces gets upended in the course of the book. We also get a fair chunk of development of how the Dragon Empire fell and left the races of man to its own devices. While I have no doubt there are more surprises in store, King’s Blood shores up its predecessor in grounding readers in this world.
Weaknesses I found in the novel? There are some improbable meetings of characters. While, from a meta point of view, binding the cast together is probably wise, I am uncertain that I completely bought the storylines that put certain characters into contact with each other. Too, there are a few overly convenient plot twists as well that didn’t feel natural. Finally, the novel doesn’t conclude so much as end. This is a hazard especially of books within a series, but the unwoven weave of plots and stories irked me somehow.
Overall, though, The Dagger and the Coin, two volumes in, is in many ways still more conventional and straightforward an epic fantasy from Abraham than his Long Price Quartet. Even so, it is among the strongest epic fantasy being written today. In a world with many epic fantasy heavyweights taking the stage, Abraham can fully be confident that he is amongst them. Readers of The Dragon’s Path will need little further incentive to pick up The King’s Blood; those who have not read the former should begin their own journey there with the Dagger and the Coin.