readingtrance

book reviews by Althea

A Betrayal in Winter – Daniel Abraham ****

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(Long Price Quartet #2)

A sequel to ‘A Shadow in Summer,’ set in the same location and a few years after the events of the previous book, but it also works as a contained story.

The Khai of Sarakheyt is ailing. Tradition demands that the next ruler of the city will be the last son of the current Khai left alive – it is the duty of brothers to kill each other to ensure an uncomplicated succession. However, one of the Khai’s sons has never had any interest in ruling. He’s left the city and has been living under an assumed name, pursuing a quiet life with an innkeeper, whom he loves, and making a living as a combination bike courier and spy. It’s the gathering-information part of the job that’s becomes a problem, because when one of his brothers is reported poisoned, he’s assigned to go find out what’s happening. Otah Machi would rather be as far as possible from these events – but he’d also rather not blow his cover by refusing the job for no logical reason.

Unfortunately for him, his cover is blown when he runs into an old friend (or maybe an enemy), Maati, one of the “poets” who sustain the economy (and the land’s defense) through the elemental golems called ‘andat’ that they summon into being through words. Maati is also interested in keeping informed on what’s going on, as politics is essential to the poets.

To his further dismay, Otah’s carefully maintained low profile is working against him, as public opinion has focused on his mysterious disappearance. No one will believe that Otah is not secretly plotting.

The reader, however, knows the identity of the real plotter from the outset: Otah’s sister Idaan. No one in this patriarchal world expects a woman would be involved in politics, but Idaan is brilliant, ambitious, and believes that she has her lover (whose name she expects to rule in), and the situation, under her thumb.

The story proceeds as a combination of court intrigue and murder mystery; with a rich setting and complex characters controlled by and fighting against their pasts, their ‘proper’ place in society, tradition, and their own emotions. Very well done.

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