Monday, July 6, 2020

Review of The Widow's House by Daniel Abraham

Starting the third book in The Dagger & Coin series, The Tyrant’s Law, there is little hint or clue what the title of the fourth, penultimate could possibly mean. We’ve had spiders, dragons, wars, and treachery, but who is the ‘widow’ of The Widow’s House (2014)? But as events in The Tyrant’s Law take shape, the meaning starts to take shape. The details, however, are for the book to reveal.

The major reveal of The Tyrant’s Law was Inys, the dragon, and in The Widow’s House he plays an even bigger role. Having survived his encounter with Inys, Marcus Webster, along with the Kit and the rest of the traveling theater group, continue their search for ways to take down Geder. Completely, bloodily, single-mindedly focusing war on Cithrin, particularly Porta Oliva where she lives, Geder now lives to make her pay for the heartbreak she caused him. Having made her decision to spurn Geder, Cithrin now attempts to put in place economic plans that will offset his reprisal. And, finally Clara. At last back in the strata of aristocracy, she has an immense new challenge: find a way to balance her new position, her sons’ new positions, her love interests, and her continued desire take down Geder—not an easy task when some of those items seem at odds with one another. As war marches across the continent, and the cult of the spider goddess grows more powerful with each city taken, the stakes of Abraham’s universe have never been higher.

For me, The Tyrant’s Law and The Widow’s House are the meaty heart of The Dagger & Coin series in terms of story and plot. Where the first two books and the fifth, final book perform their roles in a series, it’s the third and fourth books where the rubber hits the road. Page after page seems to flow effortlessly along, the story jumping between the character viewpoints at highly effective transition points, building quality momentum in the process. Commentary on the fifth and final book, The Spider’s War will have to wait for now, but in these books Abraham really hits his stride.

I’ve thought that since roughly a quarter way through the second book in the series, The King’s Blood, that Abraham noticeably pressed harder on the gas pedal of plot. Events and situations becoming more fluid and exciting. The Widow’s House continues with this acceleration. One book remains in the series, but the situation is still intense. Dragons fly, war looms, and the lives of all the main characters are under threat, some subtle and intriguing, others obvious and dramatic. Another way of putting this is, for as generic the bones of The Dagger & Coin series are, Abraham has proven the value of putting character and scene-setting first. Events starting to steam roll, The Spider’s House holds a potentially huge payout to conclude the series.

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