Summer is the season of war in the Free Cities.
Marcus is getting out before the fighting starts. His hero days are behind him, and guarding the last caravan out of the city is better than being pressed into service by the local gentry.
Cithrin has a job to do – smuggle the wealth of a nation through a war zone. An orphan raised by the bank, she is the city’s last hope of keeping its treasure out of the hands of the invaders.
Geder, the only son of a noble house, is more interested in philosophy than swordplay. But in the fires of battle, a hero – or a villain – can be forged from even the most reluctant soldier.
All three have a part to play as a minor summer skirmish threatens to spiral out of control and sweep the entire region onto the Dragon’s Path – the path to war.
The Dragon’s Path is a fantasy novel written in a similar style to GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire, with a nice blend of violence, war, political intrigue, and a variety of point-of-view characters. Although slow to begin with, both the story and the characters steadily improve as the novel progresses.
While the initial sixty pages or so made me feel as though I was being bombarded with new characters and PoVs, this soon evened itself out into four central PoV characters, all of whom come to be interesting in different ways. The slightly Erikson-esque name-dropping of what seems like a hundred names of races and cities without any elaboration was also a bit confusing at first; it takes roughly the first half of the book for the characters to fully begin to form, and the various aspects of the world, such as its history, and details of the twelve different races, soon fall into place.There are four main PoVs, each of which are very different: there’s Cithrin bel Sarcour, young orphan girl and ward of the Medean bank; Marcus Wester, war hero-turned mercenary; Geder Palliako, reluctant soldier and amateur philosopher; and Dawson, king’s advisor and steadfast loyalist. Two of these characters – Cithrin and Geder – develop significantly throughout the course of the novel, and it was their stories I found most enjoyable to read. Both characters have some pretty major ups and downs; both are forced to shed their innocent naïveté by events that shape their thoughts and personalities in very different ways, and it’s these two characters in particular that I’m keen to read more of.
The two main female characters in the novel are well-drawn, particularly since both have their own personal strengths, neither of which involves improbable skill with either sex or weapons: Cithrin, although very young, is well-versed in her knowledge of banking and finance, and skilfully uses this knowledge to turn many poor situations to her advantage; while Clara, the wife of Dawson and a comparably minor character, plays an important role by using her ability to read people and by exploiting the inferior position of women in society in order to get access to information and places inaccessible to men. I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting Cithrin’s chapters were, and how the details of her financial schemes actually became one of the most exciting plot points.The intriguing hints towards the bigger picture – a mysterious and deadly cult threatening to corrupt and engulf civilisation – and the fact that most of the characters have developed in such interesting ways more than make up for the novel’s occasional slowness; and although The Dragon’s Path is a little sluggish to start, the second half of the story – particularly the developments of the final few chapters – promises much greater things.
My rating: 4/5
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