Thursday, January 03, 2008

50 Book Challenge #2: A Shadow in Summer

I picked this up because it had a cover blurb from George R.R. Martin and it didn't disappoint. Abraham's novel (the first in a quartet) is an engaging fantasy that breaks from the usual quasi-European setting. His deployment of magic is sparing and the pacing and writing are smooth.

The narrative follows the path of Otah, a sixth son of a noble family who is put in a cruel and rigorous school for the training of poets. Poets, through careful crafting of original metaphor, capture and embody concepts in human form. These enslaved entities can perform acts of magic relating to their conceptual identity ("Removing the Part That Continues," or "Seedless" performs the work of hundreds of cotton combers in an instant by removing the seeds) but struggle against their captors in any manner possible. Otah leaves the school but cannot return to his privileged life without risking death at the hands of his inheriting brothers and must make a new life for himself. Unfortunately, a conspiracy against one of the poets draws Otah back after many years and he finds himself unable to avoid an encounter with his past.

If A Shadow in Summer lacks the psychological complexity of Martin (we are more distant from the characters, despite the similar points of view), it has the advantage of being slimmer and having its sequels due to arrive in rapid succession. Recommended.
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