Review: The King’s Blood

The King's Blood

The King’s Blood, Book 2 in The Dagger and the Coin
by Daniel Abraham, Narrated by Pete Bradbury
Length 15 hours, 42 minutes

The priests have spiders in their blood.

They worship a goddess that has spend centuries in hiding, “a spider” who blesses them with the power to divine whether or not someone is lying, as well as the ability to speak truth. When you hear them, you believe – despite the circumstances, or whether you have evidence to the contrary, you believe. And so what the priests say comes to pass. They are prophets, and they’re creating self-fulfilling prophecies. Probably.

“Probably” is what’s important. Because what the priests are speaking isn’t actually the truth. It’s a belief made of sincerity, certainty, and absolute conviction. Even if it’s wrong.

If you haven’t checked out Daniel Abraham’s The Dagger and the Coin series, you need to do that ASAP, starting with The Dragon’s Path. It’s epic fantasy, and it does what it says on the tin – it’s full of all the stuff we love about epic fantasy – an incredible cast of characters, magic (albeit a very subtle magic), fantastical creatures, adventure, romance, and most surprisingly – banking. And yet, it grapples with big ideas like forced belief and fundamentalism.

If you’re looking for B&B (Battles & Badasses), there’s some of that but the books are generally more subtle, and instead focus on what’s really special about this series: the characters. Whether it’s ex-soldiers Marcus and Yardem waxing philosophical and theological while collecting a debt (like shades of Jules and Vincent from Pulp Fiction) or banking ingenue Cithrin meeting up with her old friends from an acting troupe, the characters feel like friends you haven’t seen in years, but when you reunite with them, it’s like no times gone by.

Not all of them are heroic – some are monstrous, whether in actions or philosophy, but Abraham doesn’t let us forget they’re humans too, and gets us to empathize with them far easier than we should. Dawson Kalliam’s class-warfare attitudes are despicable, yet the genuine affection he showers on his wife and children is endearing. Geder Palliako was bullied before his unpredictable rise to power, and so when he uses his newly gained positions to keep people from lying ot his face and taking advantage of him, we understand, despite his awful and barbaric actions.

The Dagger and the Coin is one of the best kept secrets in epic fantasy. Unfortunately, the audiobooks aren’t released until about 9 months or so after the print and eBooks come out (which seems to happen as often as not for Recorded Books)…or maybe that’s a good thing? Like The Dragon’s Path, I ended up reading this book, and then listening to it once the audio came out, right in time for The Tyrant’s Law (3 of this 5 book series). There are two reasons for this: 1) Daniel Abraham’s series is just that good (I expect to revisit these books and characters many, many more times, and 2) Pete Bradbury’s narration gives an added gravity to the story that’s phenomenal. Daniel Abraham was born to write SF/F, and Pete Bradbury was born to narrate it.

Let the countdown to The Tyrant’s Law audiobook commence!

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