Welcome to our Featured Reviews! In this series, we'll be highlighting book reviews by the S&L audience. If you want to submit a review, please check out the guidelines here! -Veronica
Review by Emily Carlson
Since this book is the third in the series, there are mild spoilers for the earlier books in this review! Be warned…
The Tyrant’s Law is the third book in the Dagger and the Coin Quintet by Daniel Abraham. The series as a whole follows the emergence of a cult, worshipers of a spider goddess who gives them the ability to tell the difference between spoken lies and spoken truth. As this cult gains prevalence in the political sphere after centuries of exile, the layers of lies and deceit within the court begin to crumble. The regent of the kingdom is a devotee of the new religious order, using its truth-telling abilities to interrogate and weed out dissenters from within the court. But as more and more men and women begin to doubt his motives and his abilities, his death list grows longer and his friends are fewer and far between. New power vacuums lead to chaos and the hungry spider goddess urges her followers to swallow all of the world into her cult of truth and to purge the world of all liars in the process.
Truth and lies, self-deception, genocide, imperialism, DRAGONS, banking, poisoned swords, MORE DRAGONS
Like the previous books, Tyrant weaves back and forth between plot-lines and characters, allowing Abraham to show us both sides of the war. Some characters are more interesting and original than others, and this form of narrative allows the reader to avoid boredom with any one story. Furthermore, Abrahams is obviously a darling of the emerging “low fantasy” sub-genre and this allows us a glimpse into multiple layers and classes of life within the kingdom.
Ultimately, Tyrant is about conquest and about the nature of deception – deception of the self and deception of others. One character named Kit, an apostate priest who has abandoned the spider goddess, points out the flaws in the human-lie-detectors taking over the country. Their lie detectors are only as reliable as the people they question. That is, priests can determine confidence rather than truth. If they were to ask, “Is it raining outside?” their lie detector would only be triggered if you knew you were giving the wrong answer. If you think it is raining but it’s actually try as a bone outside, their spidey-senses don’t get tripped. This leads to a multilayered understanding of the truths within the novel. It’s not as simple as who is lying, but rather who has the correct information and how are they interpreting it, etc.
There are also some real character gems within the novel. The tyrant whom the book is named for, Geder, is one of the most sympathetic and horrifying villains I’ve ever read. While he orders the slaughter of children and rages like a child himself, it is very easy to understand him on his own terms – a man who has always felt powerless and foolish and is now gifted with ultimate power and a gravity that makes his previous enemies shake in their boots. He tries to use his power to protect the young prince and give him a safe kingdom to rule when he comes of age. But he does it with a petty selfishness that leaves others horrified at his actions.
What’s Less Than Good
I have a real problem with one of the main characters – the gristled captain of the guard, Marcus Wester. He is a man tortured by his own past which has also lead him to develop a savior complex for any young women in peril. I have a hard time connecting with Marcus simply because he feels overdone and a little less than believable to me. Furthermore, his impulsive actions in the book feel forced, almost like a poor plot device to force the narrative forward, rather than authentic expressions of his desperation. Also, I’ve never been one for stoicism.
Additionally, Abraham’s general style is slow paced. This is definitely a commitment-level series and a commitment for a novel. Although it is enjoyable, many readers will probably find themselves tapping their fingers waiting for a chapter to be over. Don’t pick this book up expecting a fast paced read; it’s not Tolkien, but it is certainly weighty.
The Final Verdict
Sticking with Tyrant is not a bad thing; the plot in this novel seems to finally come fully into bloom (about time, after 900+ pages!) and a lot of what has been hinted at in the previous novels is finally developed. As a part of the series, Tyrant definitely represents the rising action. Tensions are boiling over, armies are moving, and characters are in peril. More than anything, this book made me excited for the Abraham’s upcoming release in the series, The Widow’s House. Fans of the series will be excited to finally get some answers (or at least some new questions to chew on until August), and I would recommend the series to anyone with some time on their hands and an affinity for slow-burn fantasy and the up and coming genre of gritty/low fantasy.