Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Book Review: A Betrayal in Winter by Daniel Abraham

(part two of the Summer and Betrayal Omnibus)

Pros: complex characters, world-building with depth, intrigue

Cons: some of the antagonist's plots worked out surprisingly well 

The eldest son of the dying Khai Machi is poisoned and all eyes turn to the succession about to take place in Machi.  When Otah Machi, the Khai's sixth son, hiding under the false name Itani Noygu, is told by his courier overseer to gather information there he knows returning to the city of his birth is potentially suicidal.  He expects his low status and new identity will hide him.  

But he is unaware that the Dai-kvo has sent his old friend and student, Maati to the city, to see if it's Otah who has been trying for the position of Khai.

Abraham's forte is in creating characters of true depth.  They're real people, with complex emotions faced with difficult choices.  After the way the first book ended, I was hesitant reading this book.  It starts 14 years after the events of A Shadow in Summer, and there seemed to be too much distance between what just happened and where the characters are at the start of A Betrayal in Winter.  But a few chapters in I was so enthralled with the characters, particularly Otah's sister Idaan, who's quite a feminist for the world in which she lives.  But realistically so.

And then there are the intrigues.  A few times I felt the plots the antagonist implemented to replace the Khai came off a little too easily, if not perfectly.  On the whole, the story is quite complex, and I did like how difficult it was for Maati to discover who was behind the assassination of the eldest son.

The world-building continued to be immersive, with everything feeling real, from the netting around the beds to keep the bugs away, to the night candles and the hand gestures and name suffixes.   

This is a book that epitomises the phrase, be careful what you wish for.  It's also about how the decisions you make change you - for better or worse.


Paul Weimer said...

Hi Jessica.

How did you feel about the "leapfrogging" approach in time he uses?

Jessica Strider said...

There really wasn't a way around it unless he had the next bit of action happen right away, which wouldn't have worked as well for the story in the second book.

I think the disconnect was greater because I didn't entirely like where the characters left things in the previous book and so felt I didn't know them at the start of this one (when they've had time to change and forget but I still remember their difficult - and in my opinion bad - choices).

Once I got to know them as adults, I liked them again and quickly became interested in their new lives and decisions.

Ultimately, this time of time break will create a disconnect where you have to relearn the characters, how they and their circumstances have changed. And Abraham did a good job of filling in the past quickly while at the same time pushing the plot of the current book.