Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Shadow In Summer by Daniel Abraham

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

The city-state of Saraykeht dominates the Summer Cities.  It's wealth is beyond measure; it's port is open to all the merchants of the world, and it's ruler, the Khai Saraykeht, commands forces to rival the Gods.  Commerce and trade fill the streets with a hundred languages, and the coffers of the wealthy with jewels and gold.  Any desire, however exotic or base, can be satisfied in the soft quarter.  Blissfully ignorant of the forces that fule their prosperity, the people live and work secure in the knowledge that their city is a bastion of progress in a harsh world.  It would be a tragedy if it fell....

I briefly considered adding in the rest of the synopsis that the book gives but it would have been 4 more pharagraphs before I got to what I thought of the book.  I wish that publishers would keep some of the secrets of the book off the dust jacket, if they want us to read everything in the synopsis, they they shouldn't publish the entire book.  So now that I got that off my chest, I will let you know what I'm thinking after finishing this a few weeks ago.

This was a fantasy series and an author I was not familiar with but I found the hardcover at The Dollar Tree for $1 so I thought I would at least give it a try.  The worst that could have happened was that I wasted a dollar.   Well I'm glad to say that while I may not have loved the book I don't think my money was wasted.

I'm not sure you could call a story that mainly takes place inside the bounds of one city to be epic fantasy but it did have all the other elements.  A strong cast of characters that you really do end up liking, even the "bad" ones and a unique magic system that I found to be an intersting take on a society with limited magic. 

I guess I should explain the "magic" first.  The book takes the premise that all magic is put towards capturing an idea and turning it into human form.  One of the oldest andats, what they call the captured ideas, was Rain, but when she escaped she was recaptured as Falling Water and so on and so on.  Each idea can only be captured once by any given name.  Hence the poet is trained to verbalize that idea in a different way.  The current adant in this book is named Seedless, because the concept they turned into a andat was taking what makes something reproduce away.  Hence cotton seeds can be pulled out of large bales of cotton with one command or an entire nation of pregnant women could have their babies pulled out of their wombs.  You can see why each city-state has a poet-sorcerer who has command of one of these andats.  With that much power you can assure the peace and tranquility of your city.  It's a brilliant idea that I'm really interested in exploring further in the rest of the books.

The main protagonists are two young men, Otah and Maati, who were current and former "apprentices" to the poet-sorcerers and Amat who was the buisness manager of one of the major trading houses along with her assistant Liat who is involved with both of the young men.  Their role is to save the city from being destoryed by those who want to see Seedless disappear for forever and want to conqueor the city.  They are an interesting group of characters and for the most part they are believable in thier roles and you find yourself cheering for them without even realizing that you liked them. 

The only other thing I wanted to touch on with this book was the very Asian feel the characters had in name and in title.  Appearance is never really discuess within the book but between the characterization, the formal bowing and hand posing which they use to convey emotion or intent, and the formal tea taking all lend that "Asian" feel as well as a sense of refinement to the book that I was not expecting.  Now this could be the fact the book I read before this one was set in Ancient Japan, but I think it was intentional on the authors part, at least I hope it is.

This is the first book in a quartet and I am looking forward to the rest of the books to find out how their journey finishes.


Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

You find the best reads at your dollar tree! This one looks so good!

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

I have heard of this book. But your review has given me more details of what to expect. I have pondered on getting it. Now, I think I will have to add it to the increasingly growing long list I have here just for the magic. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The capturing idea concept sounds fascinating.

I wonder if our dollar tree sells books. I've never actually checked.

Simcha said...

You're really making me envious with all your $1 buys :)
I've never read anything by Daniel Abraham but this sounds like an interesting book.