A Betrayal in Winter


Daniel Abraham


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

December 19, 2009

tah Machi and Maati return from their introduction in the first book of the Long Price Quartet. This volume takes place ten years after the action in A Shadow in Summer. The setting is the northern city of Machi. The old ruler of the land, the Khia, is near death, and it is a tradition that the sole surviving heir of the Khia will rule in his place. However, at the moment the Khia has three remaining sons (Biitrah, Danat and Kaiin), so it is expected that they will battle to the death for the right to succeed him. The old Khia also has a daughter, Idaan, but since she is female, she obviously will not be involved. Otah is also a surviving son of the Khia, but since he has been away from the court for years (ever since childhood), Otah presumes that he will not be involved in the bloody battle for succession. Naturally, Otah's presumption is incorrect!

Otah has been working as a message courier for the last ten years, ever since the events that ended A Shadow in Summer (book one of this series). He accepts a mission to deliver a packet to Machi, figuring that he can get in and out of the city without being recognized - Otah calculates that it would be riskier to decline to act as a courier to Machi, since people would wonder why he refused. Coincidentally, when Otah is in Machi, one his brothers is murdered - the battle for succession has begun since the ruling Khia is visibly weakening. Unfortunately, Otah's identity is compromised, and he realizes that even if he successfully flees, his vengeful family now knows his assumed name, and they will hunt down and kill his woman, Kiyan. Otah's love for Kiyan is nicely depicted by Abraham in this novel. Recognizing that if he returns to the city and joins in the fight for the succession that his family will then ignore Kiyan, Otah opts not to flee.

The reader soon learns that although tradition calls for one of the sons of the Khia to become the new ruler, his daughter, Idaan, doesn't plan to let her gender stop her from vying for the throne. Idaan is involved with Adrah, from a wealthy family. They plot to become ruthless players in the kill or be killed battle for succession.

A Shadow in Summer introduced us to the powerful andats - magical beings who are constructed by the poets. In A Betrayal in Winter we learn of another of these andat. In the city of Machi resides the poet Cehmai. Cehmai's andat is called Stone Made Soft. Under Chemai's instructions, Stone Made Soft will weaken solid rock. Naturally, this is very useful for mining, tunneling or other rock work. Chemai is a powerful person - if he chose to do so, he could instruct Stone Made Soft to create avalanches or collapse the foundations of buildings. Naturally, the empires that are rivals to the Khia fear the andat.

I wonder why there isn't a giant school trying to teach poets how to build new andats? Even if the success rate is 1 in a 1000, the resulting power of one new andat to the empire would be worth it. It's easy to imagine how other andats could be useful - imagine Waves Be Calm, or Winds Be Strong or Water Be Pure or Crops To Sprout. I think Abraham has alluded to the idea that creating andats is now a lost art, that the current poets are capable only of preserving existing ones - but why isn't there research on going into reviving the art? The poets and andats are the most unique idea in this series, so I would like to see greater explanation of how they work.

This is a good story. The tunnels and towers of icy cold Machi are an interesting setting, and the political machinations and scheming is fun to read. This series is advancing nicely, though I wish somehow it could develop a more epic feel. It would be nice to get a greater scope of the whole fantasy world Abraham has created.