The powerful city-state of Saraykeht is a bastion of peace and culture, a major centre of commerce and trade. Its economy depends on the power of the captive spirit, Seedless, an andat bound to the poet-sorcerer Heshai for life.
Enter the Galts, a juggernaut of an empire committed to laying waste to all lands with their ferocious army. Saraykeht, though, has always been too strong for the Galts to attack, but now they see an opportunity. If they can dispose of Heshai, Seedless's bonded poet-sorcerer, Seedless will perish and the entire city will fall. With secret forces inside the city, the Galts prepare to enact their terrible plan.
In the middle is Otah, a simple labourer with a complex past. Recruited to act as a bodyguard for his girlfriend's boss at a secret meeting, he inadvertently learns of the Galtish plot. Otah finds himself as the sole hope of Saraykeht: either he stops the Galts, or the whole city and everyone in it perishes forever.
A Shadow in Summer was my third book club read with Fantasy Faction, the first book in The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham. Since I purchased the omnibus edition with the first two books, this post will be a review of both A Shadow in Summer and A Betrayal in Winter.
The thing I love the most in A Shadow in Summer is the amount of world building and the attention to detail. The Khaiem has a very strong Oriental feel. First, the school that Otah Machi attends reminds me very much of the Shaolin temple where they prepare the students both physically and mentally. Second, the people address each other using honorifics, similar to Japanese. Also the poses that people take to emphasize their feelings adds an extra layer to the exoticness of the story but at points they feel overused.
The magic system is unique and I like it a lot. The magic comes from humanoid beings known as andat and each has a strong connection with its wielder. The wielders are known as poets because the words they use to bind the andat must describe the thought perfectly and the resultant description is like a poem. However andats are unnatural beings and all they want is to be unmade and set free, so there is a constant struggle of power between the andat and the poet.
The two main characters are very human and they do the best they can based on their impulses much like young people do. You can't really judge them on the decisions they made as there is no clear answer. However the two protagonists were completely overshadowed by the andat Seedless who I think was the real star of the story. Here was a character with a real motivation to do what he did and I found myself wishing him to succeed in his plans.
As for the plot, it's very gripping but at the same time it feels not much has happened. In other stories you may find a few high points littered throughout the book but in A Shadow in Summer the level of excitement is at a constant level till the end. At the end of the book, conflicts are resolved but I feel a little let down because I was expecting a more dramatic finish. At the moment it feels like only the end of Act Two and leaves you wanting much more.
The second book, A Betrayal in Winter is set mainly in Otah's hometown of Machi. His father the Khai of Machi is dying and his brothers are murdered one after another. Otah is blamed for their deaths and Maati has taken it upon himself to prove Otah's innocense.
This book focus more on the relationship between Otah and Maati and how they have grown since they last met decades ago in the previous book. Both had more time to deal with their mistakes and have now taken further steps to continue with their path. There is a new andat introduced in this story but he doesn't outshine the protagonists like the previous andat, Seedless.
The same amazing world building is found here and Abraham couldn't have done a better job in creating a city that is vastly different to Saraykhet. Where Saraykeht is hot and full of life, Machi is cold and filled with a level of sorrowness.
The story like the previous book is exceptional but I can't help to think that the ending wraps up too neatly. Everything fell into place and the perpartrators are caught for their misdeeds. Nevertheless, A Betrayal in Winter has really stepped up its game and I look forward to see how things unfold in the second half of the quartet.