The Price of War (The Long Price Quartet #3 – 4)
By: Daniel Abraham
Otah Machi, caught between ancient wonders and a modern empire, has survived more than most men endure in two lifetimes. In Price of War, an omnibus collection of An Autumn War and The Price of Spring, magic and treacherous politics bring a bitter harvest of violence and tragedy to the world he must defend.
But when all is darkest and the world seems utterly lost, there is yet hope for the salvation of a future yet undiscovered. All depends on Otah, and those with the power to shape it, if they can find the courage to forgive their own trespasses and redeem their lost hopes.
I read the first half of the series, Shadow and Betrayal (review), a few days ago and here I am now with the second half of the series. Contains some spoilers ahead!
Like before, I will be breaking down my review into specific thoughts about both volumes in this omnibus before wrapping up my overall thoughts of the series:
An Autumn War
- Mind is blown. The build-up to this has been a slow burn; you know it’s going to happen but there’s the anticipation of when. And naturally when the confrontation does take place, it’s pretty intense, all-out.
- And of course there’s also all of the confrontations between characters. Liat comes back in the picture with her son Nayiit and there’s the awkwardness not only with Maati, whom she left long ago, but also with Otah, with whom she betrayed with Maati all those years ago. The past just never seems to cease haunting these characters, but it makes for a compelling read/drama.
- What’s also interesting about this volume is that amidst of the political issues and the character strife, there’s the quiet, domestic storyline of Otah trying to balance/have some kind of family life. It’s interesting and a nice break from some of the larger action sequences and dramatic moments.
- The twist with the andat Sterile was pretty crazy and totally unexpected. I mean, they’ve always been a tricky and unreliable force, but what Sterile did was just…yeah, wow. Ramnifications here we come in The Price of Spring
The Price of Spring
- The Price of Spring in some ways is a little quieter than An Autumn War in that Otah and his people are no longer facing Galt, a military threat. Instead, this final installment focuses on the fallout of certain events, certain decisions made, in the previous novel and indeed decisions made from the first novel. Galt and the Khaiem are in a very tough situation and there is no easy answer
- It’s certainly a novel of consequences. Otah and Maati at this point in their lives and in their present situation view the way forward rather differently, hence their extreme antagonism. It’s a clash of different worldviews too, both in the way they have dealt with their own failings and guilt and they way they view their situation. Otah is more of a realist than Maati but both have their reasons. It felt almost like a tragedy reading this novel because it seemed that both characters were doomed to always react the way they do to the problems that come before them
- On a frustrating note, I know that Eiah was fond of Maati since the third book but I never quite understood why she was always on opposite ends with her father. I had dismissed it in the third book as adolescence being adolescence and while I understand where her disagreement is coming from, I don’t know, it just irritated me for a good while in the novel. I think it’s stemming from the fact that the reader never really saw what happened that made Eiah and Otah so distant from one another, you only read of it in retrospect
- The andat still elude me, even to the end. Like, it made sense that they needed the andat to reverse what Sterile did but they’re so unreliable and so dangerous, I couldn’t quite sympathise with Maati at times about what he was doing. He seemed to rely on them so much…but then you’re back to that vicious circle about how everything in their society was set up to begin with so it’s hard to say…
- The epilogue wrapped everything up quite neatly. More on that below.
Having completed the quartet, what has amazed me about it is how it really chronicles Otah’s (and Maati’s–but I say Otah because we know more of him from that first prologue than about Maati) life and struggles from when he was a young man right up to old age. You could see how he changes, develops, learns over time that by The Price of Spring, he really is looking back on his life and the choices he has made with nostalgia and wisdom. Mistakes were made, relationships were forged, arguments happen…it’s life. And Daniel Abraham did a wonderful job of conveying this amidst of the storyline involving Galt, involving the andat, etc.
Thinking about it now, it really is a story about the characters and the choices they make. Sometimes it feels tragic how everyone gets stuck in this eternal loop of decision-making and guilt, sometimes it just feels frustrating because of the way that the characters made their decisions based on the person they are. Each character is a microcosm of his or her philosophy and outlook on life and it’s interesting when these outlooks begin to clash amidst larger concerns. The “price” in the title of the series does not always refer to the price it takes to bind an andat to a poet but also the price that all people pay for certain things they’ve committed or things they want.
As a side note, for the most part I thought it was effective how the reader isn’t always in the know about what happened in the years in between the novels (minus Eiah and Otah’s estrangement; I could’ve used some more scenes about the story behind that). You hear about what happened to Maati and Liat but you don’t see it. You hear about Sinja’s feelings for Kiyan, presenting problems to Kiyan and Otah’s relationship, but you never see it play out so much in the aftermath. It gives a little mystery to those storylines or something for readers to fill in further.
Overall, The Long Price quartet is a fascinating fantasy series, perhaps one of the best I’ve read in a while. It’s a bit of a slow grind at the beginning but once the characters and the world is established, it really moves at a breakneck speed. What really impressed me about this series is the character development and interaction over the course of the four novels; while I could’ve used some more scenes establishing and deepening with the romantic couples (they sometimes felt a little…cold), it was overall a joy to read. If you’re a fan of fantasy, this is definitely a series worth checking out.