Daniel Abraham’s Kithamar series has a fascinating premise. His plan is to deliver three books set over the same period of time in the same place. That place is the medieval fantasy city of Kithamar. The first book, Age of Ash, centred around a thief who gets tangled up in a conspiracy. The follow up Blade of Dream, covers the same period but from different perspectives – in this case it is predominantly the disaffected son of a merchant family and the heir to the throne of Kithamar.
The book opens at the end – the funeral procession of the prince and the knowledge that his daughter Elaine will be installed as the new prince of Kithamar. Abraham then returns to the year before and the character of Garreth Left, heir to a family merchant business that has fallen on hard times. In order to reverse their fortunes, his parents have organised a strategic marriage but after a night in which he unknowingly meets and falls for Elaine a Sal, Gareth bucks his destiny and decides to forge his own path. Meanwhile, Elaine finds that her father being prince is not all it’s cracked up to be and moreover that he is keeping secrets from her.
Blade of Dream packs some surprises in but this is not its main aim. Readers of the first book will know some of what is going on in the background and the positioning of some of the minor characters of this book who were more central to the last one. And the fates of its central characters is known from page one. What it does well is fill out more strata of the complex inhabitants of Kithamar. In this case the merchants and the city Guard as well as some more insight into the city’s religions and aristocracy. And once again, the city of Kithamar is a central character, a fully realised and complex city-organism brought to life through its characters and Abraham’s vivid descriptions of the various locales through changing seasons. And as the action of the first book weaves in and out, plenty of easter eggs for those who remember the detail of that volume.
Abraham, one of the co-writers of the incredibly addictive space opera series The Expanse knowns how to spin an engaging tale centred on slightly grey but entirely likeable characters. And he does this again in Blade of Dream. So that those who either do not remember the ins and outs of Age of Ash, or those who pick this up as a standalone (or as the first book in a series which feels designed to be read in any order) will still find a complete tale and plenty to enjoy.
While after two books it feels like Abraham has covered every possible angle of what is an eventful year in the history of Kithamar it will be fascinating to see where he comes from (and how he potentially pulls all of the threads together) in the final volume.