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Showing 1-10 of 65 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 139 reviews
on February 20, 2016
I noticed that some reviewers gave this book poor ratings because they thought it was boring. I almost didn't read it because of these reviews. I think, however, after having read the book, that the issue that many of these reviewers might have had was that this was a very unique work and not at all like the standard fantasy fare. There are no battles, hardly any magic, no sword fights, and little action. There were essentially no villains and no heroes. Frankly, it's a story that resembles real life: everyone just does the best they can with the situations life has dealt them. Great characterization, great plot, and fascinating ethical and moral issues. I know the way I describe it makes the book sound boring, but it really wasn't. I was fascinated and look forward to the next book in the series.
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on October 21, 2009
It took me a rather long time to come to my senses and give this book a chance and I could kick myself for it. A Shadow in Summer is not your typical fantasy novel, you will not find sword fights, battles, or epic sorcery anywhere in its pages, nor will you find a farmboy lingering about waiting for some old fart to whisk him off to become savior of the world. Granted, that last bit is as stereotypical as it gets, but it still stands. What you will find in their place is politics, relationships, and intrigue and Daniel Abraham is an able hand at each of them.

The characterization is not the best I have seen. A few of the characters-Maati, Otah, Amat, and Seedless-are nicely rounded, but the first three are pretty much the main characters and it is to be expected. Seedless is a secondary character that lingers about the rest, but remains my favorite of the bunch for his cruel, scheming, ways and air of humanity despite his inhuman nature. Other secondary characters do not work so well. Liat is never fully given over to the spotlight and because of this she comes off as hollow more than anything-a tool. So too, does Heshai, the poet. We are given glimpses of his past and his troubles throughout the novel, but he never becomes a well-rounded character. This does not mean these secondary characters, and the ones I did not list, are bad, just that they are not as good as they could have been.

There is nothing to complain about with the prose and I am still trying to place my finger as to why I liked it so much. Abraham has a way with words that is not flowery, but still retains a measure of beauty and is not sparse, but is immensely readable. It is compelling, pulling you forward like a carrot before an ass. This, I feel, is the selling point of the novel. The prose was very good, but had it been something of lesser quality then I could easily see myself placing this right atop David Anthony Durham's Acacia in my pile of shame.

It is just that sort of book though. With the total lack of action, I can see why it is considered by a good many as a love or hate novel. For those coming from more action-filled backgrounds such as the Wizards of the Coasts novels and countless others, it can be a jarring experience. I know this all too well. It was early on, when I first started reading fantasy, that I picked up F.W. Faller's A Sword for the Immerland King. I was delighted and excited about what I found there. A fantasy novel with no action until the bitter end! It was a novel thing for me then, but I am glad for it because it left me open to novels like this.

I was not particularly wowed by the magic present, but then I see little reason to be. It is definitely different from the normal sort. It is not a matter of flash or spell flinging, the magic worked by the Poets is a more subtle and far more consuming. It was a change of pace and interesting, which is more than enough to make me look upon it with a fair eye and pardon the indifference I hold it in.

This is not to say that I enjoyed everything. As I mentioned in the previous post, there is something about the book that bothers me so much that it helped to force the book back into the stack a few times. The poses. I understand the novel takes place in a setting that is more Eastern in its foundations and so the poses make sense as a form of communication. However, poses being a highly visual form of nonverbal communication, this is not to say that it works in this medium. None of the poses were described, not that I can remember, which left my imagination blank when they popped up time and time again. I am hard pressed to recommend a different action, as I can well imagine the descriptions becoming quickly tedious. As impossible as it seems, I did become accustomed to the little roadblocks by the end of the book, but I still find it hard to view them in anything but a negative light.

My other problem was the setting. A Shadow in Summer spent almost all of the book in the city of Saraykeht, only a small fraction was spent outside of it. Yet I do not feel as though I know the city all that well. For a novel that almost strikes me as an urban fantasy, the city is oddly separate. It does not have its own character, in fact it does not have much character at all. At one point Amat was walking through the city, describing things here and there, and I could not help but think that Abraham was trying its best to give it a sense of grittiness, but all he managed was to paint on a facade. Sure, there was feces trickling out in the streets and there may have been a dog corpse at some juncture, but it was as if all of it was freshly applied and no more natural than a coat of makeup. It almost seemed as though there was little need to fear the city, one could walk around in the dead of night safe just as long as no political machinations were aimed in their path.

A Shadow in Summer is the sort of novel you should pick up if you want something new, something different, or find yourself growing worn about the edges with the fantasy genre. It is definitely not for everyone, but that should not warn you away from picking it up and giving it a go. The novel may be a few points shy of greatness, but it is not too far behind and, as it stands, is a damned good debut novel. Meanwhile, I am looking forward to reading on in the series. If things continue as they are this could be one of the better series out there, if things improve, it could be one of the best.
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on May 6, 2015
Amazing book--best fantasy I've read in a long time. Abraham spins a truly original world (steampunk and oriental without resting on any of the tropes associated), has a cast of lovable and believably motivated characters, and an original plot idea here that trades much of fantasy's magical or swordly duels for deftly woven political/economic intrigue based around an unusual kind of murder--all tying back into that sparkling magic idea, that ideas can be caught in just the right words by poets, given form and flesh and will, and used to do work (like the idea of sprouting might help farmers grow crops). The twist is, those ideas may not love being enslaved to the poets who caught them--and not actually being human, might do some shocking things in trying to get free.
Languagewise, Abraham hits us with a sensual and unique world, a lovely spin on nonverbal communication, and left-field metaphors that lend the whole book an originality not often found in the Tolkien-rewrite trenches us fantasy fans often wade through. In short, name an aspect of a good novel--theme, pacing, character, action, peripety, character arc, language--and Abraham has nailed it, all in his first book. Damn. Would that the rest of fantasy took his debut as a benchmark. Highly recommended.
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on September 8, 2013
I've never really caught on how to do half-star recommendations on Amazon (or even if that's possible). Actually I'd tend to pitch this at the 3 1/2 star point -- it's very well written, exceptionally well-realized and with (for the most part) believable characters. It suffers from the big plot hole everyone has talked about here, as well as, I think, a character who doesn't work as well as he probably envisioned it would.

The plot is well summarized already, there's no need for me to do it. I liked the world, which felt to me like Central Asia pulled in a southern direction (if that makes sense). Abraham is very good on setting the scene: the humidity, the filth in the streets, the rain, what's being eaten, what's being worn, traditional roles and political structures. The characters in here were I thought fairly believable (with one major exception)and I particularly liked how the "theme" of the book was the difficulty of the choices they all made. I don't think it's giving too much away to point out that the nominal "heroes" of this story do some fairly terrible things, while the "villains", although not always behaving with the noblest of intentions, are certainly understandable. I also liked how these characters' destinies do not, for the most part, work out in the traditional ways. There are a few spots here where it looks like things are working towards a certain kind of traditional resolution -- only to have them twisted about. I liked that.

The magic is limited to one idea rather rigorously presented. (I wonder if Abraham knows the work of Jack O'Connell who actually wrote a book called WORD MADE FLESH.) Although the Andat are said to be living "ideas", the one we actually see, Seedless, is much more a Lucifer figure out of PARADISE LOST -- complete with sympathetic motivations and painful self-knowledge. It will be interesting to see how they develop in other books. I do agree that there's a massive plot hole in this, it didn't destroy the story for me but I can see how it might for others. (I buy the explanations of those who've proffered them on how this hole can be explained away -- I just don't see that in the book, is the thing. In vague terms it's suggested if X happens Y will result. Unfortunately though the story ends with X happening and no Y resulting, indeed the last line clearly indicates the city is only slowly waking up to the enormity of the deed. So in story terms "Y" is really not on the table, at least here. My guess is that Abraham was more concerned with the moral conundrum than the story-problems, and didn't really think things through.)

My other issue is the characterization of the love interest. All of the other major characters in this book are pretty complex, with mixed motives and internal conflicts. Love Interest though is pretty straightforward -- she's a pretty, self-involved girl. It's done well, to be sure, but in a book where seemingly everyone else is hoisting their own cross on the way to their personal Calvary her narcissism makes her unlikable. Structurally it actually gets in the way of the story, as at about the 2/3 point or so her story rises to the surface and her unappealing nature makes this bit a dreadful drag to get through -- at frankly a bad time in the book for the energy to lag.

So it has problems, but I believe this was Abraham's first novel and these are the kind of problems I would expect to find in a first novel, ie basic plot construction problems. There's a lot here that's really good, and I will be checking out the second volume of the series.
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on April 9, 2015
This series is based on an original and interesting concept: A large portion of the human world relies on captured gods (the "andat") for safety and prosperity. Abraham explores this premise from different perspectives: the "poets" who spend a lifetime studying in the hopes of binding one of the andat, the people in the nations who rely on the andat for protection and prosperity, the nations who don't have their own andat and live in fear that the andat-protected nations will destroy them with a sudden and devastating thought--and even the andat themselves, who (although they are in human form) aren't particularly human but whose desperate desire to escape their bondage is palpable. Abraham uses a handful of likeable but flawed characters to narrate the events that drive this world to catastrophe and change. Although he describes a world different from our own and free of our modern technology, Abraham doesn't resort to recreating some vaguely medieval past--his world has its own rules, the originality of which I very much appreciate.
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on July 23, 2012
This is a spoiler-free review of the entire Long Price Quartet. The four books are A Shadow in Summer, A Betrayal in Winter, An Autumn War, and The Price of Spring. Note that the last book was not published in the US in Mass Market, so instead I purchased a used copy of Seasons of War, the British paperback printing containing the last two books. I'm annoyed that I can't have all four books in the same print format, but it is a small issue overall.

The Long Price series is an Epic Fantasy, where magic, politics, and war come together, and the actions of a small band of dedicated people shift empires. But that description is highly misleading, as the series isn't like any other I've read. It's closest to A Song of Ice and Fire in tone and temperament, but with a much smaller cast, and even more moral ambiguity. Notably this is one of the only series I've read where you think at the end that 'they did the best they could do.' and both the characters and the reader have to be satisfied with that hollow victory.

Each of the four books is a complete distinct story on its own, but they are also all necessary pieces in the full tale. Philosophical discussions from the first book influence the decisions in the last. The characters age significantly, and change, but in ways that are believable and true, even when painful. Upon completing the series I looked back and the whole story is set up like a line of dominoes, falling forward inexorably towards the conclusion, and yet I never felt railroaded, and in fact I feel like it all could have gone differently, if only.

The characters are real. That's the best compliment I can give. They are real, and flawed, and noble, and limited, and young, and old, and yes, they are good and evil, but never just one or the other.

Without giving any spoilers, I'll say that the plot is surprising. I've read a lot of Fantasy, and I know its rhythms, and this series confounded my expectations time and time again. At least twice I gasped out loud in shock and horror, and that is not an experience I am used to having. In particular, books 3 and 4 were simply brilliant at causing my head to spin, and to give up on trying to figure out what was going to happen next.

For criticism, there is one serious issue, a limitation in the magic system which appears to be an obvious flaw, that somehow goes unremarked upon almost totally. Many of the earlier reviewers have mentioned it, and I agree with the sense of their concerns. That said, I believe the culture around the mages (poets) provides a huge deterrent against exploiting the flaw, and the consequences of a near miss would be beyond devastating. That said, I do think Mr. Abraham should have more explicitly called out that flaw in the pages and explained why it was not as severe a risk as it appears.

Overall this is a rarity, a completed fantasy work, that gets better which each passing book, where each book tells a complete story and yet is a seamless part of a longer story. I will now be buying anything written by Daniel Abraham (and his nom de plumes) in an effort to see if he can replicate the success of The Long Price Quartet.
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on August 19, 2013
Maybe, as some reviewers say, there is a fundamental flaw in the logic regarding this whole "nations that solely rely on an Andat for their defense" kind of thing. Granted, but this series is worth the read none the less.

I appreciated living thru the aging process with the main characters over the length of time. I also appreciated that it was all allowed to happen the length of just 4 books!

But the 2 things I really enjoyed most:

1) the attention the detail in describing the culture. The scenery, scents, and even the description of the food and wardrobe all made me feel like I was there ( or at least gave me a craving for oriental food ;)

2) the feeling of analogy and "lessons learned from history". There were so many parallels with the way that different nations interact. The lessons learned seems to be guiding the reader to the conclusions that we really do need to think beyond our own borders. Our future can either be built by the children born from our alliances and " cross pollination", or we can all be isolationists ... And fade out of the pages of history on our own.
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on March 24, 2014
Daniel Abraham is a unique writer. His stories are like watercolor paintings, with tone and texture almost as important as story. His stories bring to mind Gene Wolf. I read A Shadow in Summer after having read the first three books of the Dagger and Coin series. So, while this is his debut novel, it isn't his debut to me, and it didn't feel like a debut. His writing is excellent and polished. If I have any complaint, it would be this is too similar to the Dagger and the Coin series. Medieval setting, woman business person, fantasy elements as background for the story rather that as central elements. They could be the same series.
Despite this, though, I find Daniel Abraham to be one of the best, and most nuanced writers in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre.
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on January 11, 2012
I truly enjoyed A Shadow in Summer. I regularly read fantasy novels about political intrigue, complex social structures, with a large cast of characters. In that genre, A Shadow in Summer stands out as having some unique and really complicated characters. There is no one clear protagonist and no obvious, pure villain: there's no hero quest or coming-of-age tale. Instead, you have seven or eight people who are trying their best to follow their own agenda with integrity, and we get to make our own judgments as to whether those agendas are good, bad, effective, naive, etc. For example, one main character is an older women (how often is that true? She's not pathetic or weak, nor is she super-powerful through magic; she's just a woman in her 50s who has a good head on her shoulders, a sense of justice, and an interesting point of view), and though most of us would expect her to be solely on the 'good side,' we come to see that some of her actions might not be the best for the other protagonists. Her quest for justice might have detrimental effects on some of the other characters I had come to care about, such as a man who is hiding his background and wants to be left alone; an ambitious young woman who develops a romantic dilemma; merchants who need to listen to their bosses but at the same time keep some sense of dignity; a mage-type of person (here called a poet) who has to suffer the consequences of major mistakes he made in the past; and a supernatural "concept" who has come to life through the poet's power.

I found the plot to be complicated and twisty, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the quartet. If you want lots of action scenes, with fights, battles, and quests, look elsewhere. If you want a politically three-dimensional novel that is more about decision-making in a hierarchical society, with memorable, well-developed characters (think Robin Hobb, Ellen Kushner, Scott Lynch, or yes, even George RR Martin with a lot less violence), definitely give this a try.
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on May 7, 2016
This book was just okay, the writing is excellent, but the story slow not very interesting.
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