My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Since the end of “A Betrayal in Winter,” reluctant leader Otah Machi has tried to make some changes in the way the city of Machi is rule. He’s taken only one wife who has given him two children. Otah would like to easily hand off the reigns of leadership to his son, Danat when the time comes, but Danat’s poor health could mean the child will die before that can happen. It would leave a vacuum in the top leadership role and lead to potentially more chaos than when Otah took over the throne.
Things get a bit more complicated with Liat returns to his life with her son Niyat in tow. In spite of claims that Niyatti is the poet Matti’s son, all appearances say he is the son of Otah and could be in line for succession. If Otah chooses to acknowledge him as a son and put him in line for the throne.
As if that weren’t enough, a Galt general by the name of Balasar Gice is stirring up trouble to the north. He has a poet of his own and audacious plan to invade and conquer his neighbors to the south. Balasar plans to remove the security blanket that has kept Galt at bay all these years–the andats. Liat brings news of the troop movements by Balasar and the Galts and while Otah struggles over the decision to use the andats or not to wipe out the Galts, Balasar puts him plan into motion, destroying all the andats and leaving the country open to conquest.
“An Autumn Campaign” is the third installment in Daniel Abraham’s “Long Price Quartet” and it may be the best so far. Abraham takes seeds from each of the first two books and weaves them together into an engrossing story that is rich both in well developed character and an engrossing narrative. The novel is one that finds the pigeons coming home to roost as it were with events and actions from the first two novels having consequences and a major impact on developments here. Abraham also keeps the story interesting by allowing us to see both sides of the coming conflict and lets us understand that while war is brewing, both sides have legitimate claims, fears and grievances in the upcoming battle. It’d be easy to make the Galts one-note bad guys but Abraham avoids this. The first two books found them off-stage a bit, pulling strings and maneuvering politically. Here we spend significant portions of the book getting their world-view and the novel is a richer experience for it.
The disappearance of the andats is a major turning point in the series and leads to another turning point for the series. Maati and his fellow poet struggle to find a way to bind a new andat to reset the balance of power and wipe out the Galts. But what Maati creates and the ramifications of it leave the book on a compelling cliffhanger and open up the door to a fascinating end to the series.
It’s nice to see a series that seems to have a thought-out storyline before the first chapters are committed to paper. As I’ve said before, one of my biggest frustrations with fantasy series is the lack of closure some will have, simply running on for pages and novels on end in an attempt to pad out a series for maximum profit. “The Long Price Quartet” shows the value of having a clearly defined beginning, middle and end to a story and while I’m sure Abraham has some surprises in store for the final book, just like every other surprise he’s thrown in the series so far, they’ll all be well sewn into the story either based on our knowledge of the characters or the established rules of the universe.
Reading “Autumn” I was struck again by how Abraham grounds his fantasy universe in familiar elements of our own. One particular thread that struck me is the mentions of food in the books so far. It’s not a stopping to describe some luxurious and exotic feast. Instead it’s details of the names of food, the sights, smells and tastes of them and having the characters stop to enjoy a meal or wine or tea. It’s seemingly minor, but it has a huge impact in helping the world seem a bit more real and interesting.