A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is not your typical fantasy. There is no dark evil to be fought and defeated. There is only one mythical element. The good guys are competent and complex for the most part. You won’t find the poor commoner who suddenly finds out he is the heir to the kingdom or has some fantastic magical power, and must fight for his rights or save the world. There are no epic battles or fast-paced action scenes. This is more of an internal story. The whole of it is concerned more with political intrigue and personal struggle than with apocalyptic expanse.
That said, it is an intriguing beginning to the Long Price series. The woldbuilding is deep and complex. There is a large Eastern influence in the setting, with formal structures to interactions, prescribed ways of conducting business both personal and work-related, and communication that is both verbal and more subtle in body language. Characters are complicated and nuanced. There are very few simple stereotypes here. Even the andat, a sort of spirit creature that is described as Thought given form and under control of the magic-wielding poets, is not a simple mystic spirit. He’s deeply involved in the intrigues of the court and merchants at the same time he can be compelled to do the bidding of his masters. The whole thing is woven together with a lyrical sense that keeps the story moving despite its lack of big action sequences.
A Shadow in Summer will probably not appeal to every fantasy reader. If you tire of deeply internal stories, you will probably find this to be slow moving and less interesting. It will appeal to those who love political complexities and deep diving character studies. It is an intriguing start to the series.
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