The Dragon's Path (The Dagger and the Coin)
by Daniel Abraham
Review by Mel Jacob
Orbit Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316080682
Date: 07 April 2011 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Dragon's Path begins Daniel Abraham's trilogy The Dagger and the Coin. Told primarily from the point of view of a bank's ward, a mercenary, a noble scholar, an actor, and a scheming lord, it follows the smuggling of a fortune in goods and gems out of a city about to be conquered and the political machinations of the conquerors.
Framing the novel are the musings of an apostate, once an initiate of the spider goddess. He has the power to discern the truth because of the tiny spiders in his blood. He has turned away from the goddess and fears she intends to devour the world. His identity and what he hopes to achieve remain obscure for most of the novel.
As a ward of the bank, teen-age Cithrin has been schooled in accounts and banking protocols. When war threatens, the bank's agent arranges to smuggle out of the city of Vanni all the bank's valuables and its ledgers. Cithrin, dressed as a boy carter is to take them to Carse, home of the bank's main branch. Joining a caravan, she struggles to manage her cart and avoid detection.
Marcus Wester, a legendary mercenary captain and his lieutenant Yardem, a religious Tralgu, have a contract to guard a caravan heading to Carse, but their men have been arrested and conscripted by the Prince of Vanni. Desperate for men, Marcus recruits a troop of actors to be guards. He is haunted by the death of his wife and daughter and, once he discovers Cithrin's identity, he feels compelled to protect her.
Geder, scion of a noble family, prefers reading to soldiering and is held in contempt by his commander and other nobles. Humiliated, his books burned, he is forced to endure. During the battle to capture the city of Vanni, he manages to save others including the lord in charge. At first inept and primarily the dupe of others, Geder shows stamina and the ability to survive difficult transitions. Not wholly likeable, he remains interesting.
Dawson, a noble and father of Geder's one friend, has his own plans for the kingdom and schemes against young upstarts. He tries to force the King's hand, but fails and fears an insurrection will rend the kingdom. With his plans in disarray, he seeks a solution, but is unwilling to rely on the only people able to help.
The world Abrahams has created has a variety of human races stemming from when the dragons, now gone, ruled. In addition to the human races, the dragons also left indestructible roads. He provides fascinating characters and enough action to hold readers' attention. He even manages to make banking an interesting subject and a part of the political conspiracies. Cithrin, Wester, and the actor Master Kit are fascinating and provocative characters.
While the initial volume of The Dragon and the Coin trilogy focuses on Cithrin, Marcus, and Geder, the role of the spider goddess will develop in the rest of the trilogy. An excerpt from The King's Blood appears at the end of this book.