BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The power of the tyrant Geder Palliako only grows, as the few individuals actively working against him, openly and otherwise, find challenges and problems of their own.
PROS: More solid revelation of the world and its nature; a sharp wham in the denouement; interesting use of deconstruction and skewed view of classic tropes.
CONS: Parts of the plot feel a little too forced and derivative, or repetitive.
BOTTOM LINE: Three novels into the Dagger and the Coin series, the energy and craft remains strong.
In The Tyrant’s Law, the third book in Daniel Abraham’s Dagger and the Coin series, an avaricious Empire seeks to expand even more, driven by the priests of the Spider Goddess that have wormed into its heart. War and change enflame a continent at their urging, the tyrannical Regent a slave to its logic. Two unlikely heroes travel the world seeking the key to stopping that war machine. A disgraced noblewoman, fallen from power and society, looks to end the tyrant’s reign. A young banker continues the lessons of mercantile power, and personal lessons for her as well. She, too is a target of the Tyrant’s interest.
Like the previous two volumes in this series, Abraham uses the tools of epic fantasy and subverts them as well. A limited number of viewpoint characters continue to keep the focus on plot and story momentum of the former realm of Dragons. Even when it seems that the plot is a bog standard plot coupon quest, the author has delightful surprises up his sleeve.
My favorite character in the entire series is still the Tyrant himself, Geder Palliako. Abraham continues to make him a fascinating character, one we were meant to identify with from the beginning of The Dragon’s Path. Now, like the Gunnison River having worn away soft soils and rock layers long ago and wearing its way through hard basement rock, I am unable to change course as I continue to avidly watch his continued development and descent into darkness.
Aside from the Tyrant, the remainder of the characters — Cithrin, Marcus, or the lovely and unexpected Clara — remain interesting. The world building Abraham continues in this volume (especially a surprise in the ending) continues to sparkle. Still, the characters are what really bring this series to life in The Tyrant’s Law. Cithrin continues to evolve as a would-be mover-and-shaker of things mercantile. Marcus goes on what seems to be a quest like in a dozen fantasy novels you read, yet Abraham hands that beautifully. And Clara, in the center of the empire yet unempowered, gives us a view of the Empire from its bottom, where the cracks in its rotten structure are grossly apparent.
The low magic epic fantasy universe that Abraham creates and brings to life, with nearly indestructible jade roads and ruins of long ago Dragon Kings, is a wonderful tapestry upon which the characters play; especially with Marcus’ storyline, we get to see even more of the world he has built, and a greater sense of how diverse and different parts of it are. I appreciate a fantasy realm that has an organic feel of variation rather than a sameness or sudden and inexplicable change. Realms next to each other are different and yet share common traits, just like in the real world.
Readers at all interested in low magic Epic Fantasy should check out what Abraham is doing in the Dagger and the Coin series, and join me in waiting for the next volume.