As I wait for the next installments in A Song of Ice and Fire, The Kingkiller Chronicles, and The Magicians series, I mined the depths of GoodReads to find the next great fantasy series. The first contender is The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham.
Fantasy books have the added challenge of not only building a world from whole cloth but also explaining that world without the reader feeling like they are stuck in a boring history lecture about some minor skirmish between two countries whose names you can’t pronounce that happened 300 years ago. A Shadow in Summer somewhat succeeds in its world building but at the sacrifice of interesting characters or a compelling plot. The book’s length may have had something to do with this. Clocking in at 336 pages, there is scarcely any room left after the world building and the minimal character introductions to do anything except move the plot in its most predictable direction.
Magic in the world of A Shadow in Summer exists through the summoning of abstract ideas into corporeal form, known as andats, who must do the bidding of the “poet” who summons them. In the time frame of the book, all of the powerful andats have already been summoned and lost, and so the current generation of poets are left to summon andats that provide Saraykeht, a prosperous city-state, a leg up in processing cotton. Yes, the main conflict in the book revolves around the processing of cotton (The climax of one of Abraham’s other books involves an audit of some kind and the reader is treated to several chapters in A Shadow in Summer detailing how one of the main characters tries to balance the books in a brothel. I guess Abraham was trying to market the book to accountants?)
The main characters do not stray beyond established archetypes – a veteran tradeswoman, her apprentice, a poet-in-training, and a poet outcast. The only interesting character is the andat Seedless and unfortunately his appearance time is relatively short compared to the other characters. Although this is the first book in a quartet, the plot is tied up pretty completely that I felt no urge to read the next book to find out what happens next.