The Long Price Quartet: The Complete Quartet by Daniel Abraham
„But there’s a price, little one. You know that.“
Daniel Abraham’s LPQ has turned my world upside down. This irresistable masterpiece has immediately become one of my instant favourites and is without a doubt the best fantasy I’ve read this year. Outstanding character work, an absolutely unique setting and wordlbuilding, and prose that’s as sweet as lemon drops have made reading this a pure joy. But y’all know how much I need character work and prose in a favourite book, don’t you? So why has this series turned my world upside down?
„I’m saving the world,“ Balasar said. „So, now. Say you’d rather drown than help me.“
Let me tell you, my young padawans. The LPQ is the best example for the fact that even the worst tropes can work if they’re well-written – and Abraham even managed to include various love triangles that I enjoyed reading. There are love triangles and time jumps, and there isn’t a single action scene in the entire first book. And I love it. I love everything because it’s all executed so incredibly well. Absolutely chef’s kiss. How did he do it? By being the perfect architect writer.
Once upon a time there was a city by the sea, and it lived in prosperity and innocence. But it didn’t anymore.
There are two types of writers: architects who plan everything before they start, and gardeners who just dive straight into it and let things grow. Abraham is an architect, and he may be the best architect I’ve ever seen. He has built this series with so much love for detail, with such an extraordinary idea that slowly unfolds both over the course of the series and the individual books – reading this has been one of the best reading experiences I’ve ever had. So you may ask yourself: why haven’t I heard of this series before? Why hasn’t it ever been on the NYT bestseller list?
„Everything I wanted to do has already been destroyed. (…) There isn’t a solution to this. Not anymore. I’m reduced to looking for the least painful way that it can end. I don’t see how we take these pieces and make a world worth living in.“
The hard answer is: because the average modern SFF reader has no patience and the attention span of a goldfish. Most readers nowadays expect books to be like Hollywood action movies: fights and explosions all along, and in the end the hero gets the girl. There is no patience for grand internal conflict and tragedy – what people want is entertainment, innuendo, and big battles. To sum it up: people want more GoT season 5 following and less GoT season one.
„The boy I knew and the man we knew has become a stew of bitterness and blind optimism. He wants the past back, and no sacrifice is too high.“
The entire first and second books, A Shadow in Summer and A Betrayal in Winter, remind me so much of the first half of A Game of Thrones. That long, tense phase when everybody was sharpening their knives and making alliances in secret. That moment right before all of those tensions erupted like the volcano that the War of Five Kings was. This is what happens in the first half of the quartet: the board is set, the pawns prepared. So much perfect buildup, so much careful character study, and yet such high stakes. As I said: there isn’t a single action scene in the entire first book. And yet the stakes and the tension are just outstanding. They are right there below the surface, like that monster in the lake at the Doors of Moria. And then that monster strikes in An Autumn War. And oh boy, what a strike it is.
At heart, he was not a conqueror. Only a man who saw what needed doing, and then did it. Or else he would fail and every Galtic man and woman would be a corpse or a refugee.
I’ve talked about internal conflict already, but I have to elaborate on that. Because the internal conflicts these protagonists have to face over the course of their lives aren’t like anything you’ve ever read. Just believe me: you’ve never seen any characters in any fantasy book being faced with these decisions to make. You’ve never seen people that have to deal with these implications. Because sometimes, there is no right or wrong decision to make. Sometimes, it’s just about the lesser evil – and that lesser evil might still destroy everything you hold dear in the long run. Because actions have consequences.
„You don’t understand,“ he said. His voice wasn’t angry, only tired. „I want to be a good man. And I’m not. For a time, I thought I was. I thought I could be. I was wrong.“
„Good men shouldn’t be able to make mistakes with prices this high.“
There has never been a series that deserved its name like this one does: in the long run, you’ll have to pay the price. And you’ll have to live with these decisions for the rest of your life. You’ll look back on them years and decades later, and you’ll realise where you went wrong – but by then, it’ll be too late. You’ll have to live with your decisions, and with the implications. And that’s what Abraham does. He shows you the entire lives of these protagonists, how they start out as children, and how their decisions shape the world they live in.
„All over the world, in every land, men do this. They slaughter each other over money or sex or power. The Khaiem do it to their own families.“
The worldbuilding is oustanding as well. Abraham’s story takes place in a world that’s dominated by the central conflict between the European-steampunk-inspired Galt and the Asian-inspired Cities of the Khaiem with their tea houses and baths, and with the sons of its nobility who need to kill their brothers if they want to follow their fathers.
„The Galts have been doing more and more with their little devices, and we’d be fools to ignore what they’ve managed.“
The Galts have science and modern technology, but the Khaiem have magic – they have the andat: thoughts and abstract concepts captured into djinn-like beings. And while the Galts try to remove the andat in order to finally conquer the rich cities of the Khaiem, the andat struggle against their keepers, the poets, as well. Daniel Abraham’s worldbuilding is better than Brandon Sanderson’s. Yes, I’ve really said that. Because it’s true. Sanderson technically informs you on hundreds and hundreds of pages about each aspect of his world – Abraham doesn’t. Abraham paints this world elegantly and perfectly measured.
For a moment, she saw herself through his eyes – cutting, ironic, cruel. It wasn’t who she had been with him. Once, before they had made this bargain with Chaos, she had had the luxury of being soft and warm. She had always been angry, only not with him. How lost he must feel.
The character work isbetterthanjoeabercrombie’s. Each of these protagonists is so fleshed out, so incredibly human, so tragic. Abraham is the Shakespeare of fantasy. To follow these protagonists through their entire lives has been a journey I’ll never forget. And the prose? Outstanding. I’ll admit it: I’m a huge prose snob. And while reading this, I’ve been an extremely happy prose snob.
If there were an earthquake, the towers would certainly fall. For an instant, he imagined the stones pattering down in a deadly rain, the long, slumped piles of rubble that would lie where they fell. The corpses of giants.
To sum it all up: I highly recommend this series to anyone who is willing to tackle a challenging, intelligent, slow Fantasy series that spends a lot of time carefully building up an enormous conflict. Believe me, all of this buildup is worth it in the end. The ending of An Autumn War is better than the ending of Hero of Ages. The stakes that Abraham installs throughout this series are higher than Mount Doom. It’s an incredible masterpiece, highly underrated. This series deserves so much more love than it gets. . . Five stars. At least. Easily an all-time favourite for me, the best finished Fantasy series I’ve read in a very long time.
Writing Style 5
-> 27/25 (108%) 5 stars.
The Long Price Quartet: The Complete Quartet by Daniel Abraham