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Fantasy Series Spotlight: The Dagger and the Coin

Friday, August 19th, 2022

Series Spotlight Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

 

THE DAGGER AND THE COIN is an excellent epic fantasy by Daniel Abraham.  Composed of five volumes, THE DRAGON’S PATH, THE KING’S BLOOD, THE TYRANT’S LAW, THE WIDOW’S HOUSE, and THE SPIDER’S WAR, it is set in a medieval fantasy world much removed from ours. There is a Dagger because this story is about war, several wars in fact, and a Coin because this is also about the economics of war and power. Don’t worry, the economic lessons are not boring.

Millennia ago, the dragons created many different races of humans to be their slaves. But mostly the dragons are legend now. No one knows what happened to them but some of their artifacts still exist – the roads paved with indestructible dragon’s jade are the most evident. The humans still exist in their varied forms – the canine looking Tralgu, the thin pale Cinnae, stocky Firstbloods, and many more. As we start, we’re not shown much prejudice between the races although sadly this is going to change.

The entire story is told from the POV of a limited cast of characters. Cithrin, a half-breed orphan raised by the Medean bank, and a financial wizard from a very young age; Marcus Wester, a one-time general now the captain of a mercenary company; Geder Palliako, a young man who wanted to be a scholar but is now an unhappy military officer; Baron Dawson Kalliam, a noble in Antea; and Clara Kalliam, Dawson’s wife.  There are many interesting secondary characters we’ll get to know, some of them rather well, and one of them has a very important secret.

As it starts out, teenager Cithrin is a refugee. Her city has been sacked by the Anteans, and she’s pretending to be a boy driving a cart with provisions. In reality she’s got the riches of that branch of the Medean bank, but she’s woefully unprepared for the deception. Marcus Wester and his second-in-command soon discover her but decide she needs protection; Marcus will never, ever, admit she reminds him of his deceased daughter. Geder Palliako, left in charge of the captured city, is going to make a murderous decision. Baron Kalliam loves his king and country, and will do anything to save it. Clara is the savvy wife furthering her husband’s career, but her life is going to change rather abruptly.

You see, it turns out that the legacy of the dragons is still very much alive in the world, just waiting for the right time to emerge. Geder is unwittingly going to bring it to light, and then fully embrace its lies while actively embracing the death of thousands and laying waste to entire countries. But maybe the solution is out there, somewhere, and also needs to be uncovered…

No spoilers here, so I won’t go over the entire plot. There is a lot of traveling involved – long and arduous land journeys, sailing trips, and flat-out running from invading armies. There are court politics and the machinations of money. A couple surprising twists show up too.  I found the smaller cast of main characters enjoyable; it’s nice not to have to keep referring back to a character list. Geder is nasty but probably the most interesting – despicable acts with flashes of kindness.  Marcus doesn’t change much at all but he’s a good, solid character with a rather fatalistic sense of humor. I thought his relationship with Yardem was a highlight of the story. I couldn’t like Dawson, but he was honorable in his own way. Cithrin and Clara change the most. I wasn’t all that interested in Clara but as the story went on she became more and more solid. Cithrin is cool (she invents paper money and inevitably the national debt at the same time, later in the story).  I also found the idea of the spider priests’ ability frightening – as soon as they revealed themselves I had so many questions –  and I loved seeing what Abraham did with it.

It all comes to a bloody and battered end, with the bad guys defeated and the good guys attempting to pick up the pieces of the world.  Not all the loose ends are tidied up, either, which leaves us with some intriguing questions. It’s a rewarding series, with excellent imagery and pacing, great world-building and while it’s not short, it doesn’t go on forever.