Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Review - A Betrayal in Winter

A Betrayal in Winter – Daniel Abraham
Book one in the Long Price Quartet left me extremely frustrated to begin with. It was a book I expected to love and for some reason I could not get into it. I can honestly say I the book just didn’t click with me, which was extremely annoying as there was no reason why that should be the case. The writing was not particularly complex and the world building although different was not difficult to understand. However, perseverance was the key and I ended up appreciating the story and the characters. I approached book two then with more realistic expectations.
The Blurb:
As a boy, Otah Machi was exiled from his family, Machi's ruling house. Decades later, he has witnessed and been part of world-changing events. Yet he has never returned to Machi. Now his father--the Khai, or ruler, of Machi--is dying and his eldest brother Biitrah has been assassinated, Otah realizes that he must return to Machi, for reasons not even he understands.

Tradition dictates that the sons of a dying Khai fall upon each other until only one remains to succeed his father. But something even worse is occurring in Machi. The Galts, an expansive empire, has allied with someone in Machi to bring down the ruling house. Otah is accused, the long-missing brother with an all-too-obvious motive for murder.
What a difference “being in the mood” to read a book makes. I loved Daniel Abraham’s second novel from the outset. It was everything I expected the first book to be. A number of reviewers have complained that this book is more of the same and perhaps that is a good thing in my case as whatever the reasons I did not initially enjoy the first novel were, I did not experience them here and confirmed that I was just out of sorts when reading the first book.
A lot of the characters return from the A Shadow in Summer and Daniel Abraham does a good job of recounting the events of the first novel without feeling like he is trying to do just that.
Otah and Maati are more in the background to begin with. Both are keeping a low profile, but are slowly drawn into the scheming that takes place in Machi. This allows Abraham to develop their characters effectively without having them the main characters all the time.
The new characters are also likeable. Idaan is the daughter of the dying Khal. She is disillusioned with the male society and wishes to exert her presence. However, she is far from the driven, man-hating woman that so often occupies literature. Abraham portrays her as indecisive. She wants to carry through her plans but also wishes for the whole mess to be taken out of her hands. It makes for a compelling character. On occasions she is trapped and on others her actions surprise you.
The Poet Cehmai and his Andat Stone-made-soft are also great new additions. Cehmai is hopelessly in love with Idaan and blind to all that goes on around him as a result. However, he still retains a sense of justice and a conviction that is beyond his years. The Andat, although not as memorable as Seedless, still has enough mystery surrounding him to make him one of the more interesting characters.
Abraham also uses an effective GRRM trait in building up characters off screen so that the reader can’t wait to meet them. He then kills them off and or introduces them when you don’t expect it evoking  a strong response from his audience.
The plot of A Betrayal in Winter is more simple. Although there are many twists and turns along the way the story focuses on one family mostly rather than the sprawling nature of the first book. It makes for more intimate characters and settings and brings the world to life.
The ending, although inevitable is very good. Although everything is resolved, you get the sense that the politics have only just begun which is the perfect way to end a story.
My rating: 9.0