The Tyrant’s Law, the 3rd entry in Abraham’s The Dagger and the Coin series, is another steady and enjoyable epic fantasy read. It increases the stakes and drama, adding layers to the flourishing world-building whilst not quite being up to the same high standards as The King’s Blood. The events of The King’s Blood were wrapped up neatly so – in The Tyrant’s Law – it seems like new tales are beginning or critical next steps in a character’s journey are taking place.
The titular “tyrant” Geder Palliako is still, arguably, my favourite character, and when I started this read, I thought that was a rather unflattering word for him. He’s a highly complex individual, and as his insecurities and frailties are revealed to us, his reputation, renown, and awe-inspiring skill for thwarting conspiracies grow to the observing characters. The “tyrant” title does become more understandable as the narrative progresses, however; due to us seeing his precarious uncertainties – as we’re sharing his thoughts – I can’t help but sympathise with him. He’s overwhelmed, paranoid, and has the blessing of the Spider Goddess all to contemplate. As the novel progresses so does Geder’s instability.
Marcus Wester and Master Kit’s tale – although taking a backseat in The King’s Blood – is driven to the forefront of the focus in The Tyrant’s Law, and I had so much time for that! Their adventures and escapades take them across half the world, with a fair amount of memorable and cinematic moments happening to them. Their overall importance and knowledge regarding which side they may be fighting for during this war become more apparent, and I couldn’t help chuckling to myself thinking that much of their actions were alike quests from The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Their screentime was often unlike, and a pleasant change in pace from, the more political undertakings of Geder, Clara, and the financial and political happenings of Cithrin bel Sarcour’s point of view perspectives.
“The world disappoints us all, and the ways we change our own stories to survive that disappointment are beautiful and tragic and hilarious. On balance, I find much more to admire about humanity than to despise.”
There are no weak point of view perspectives in The Tyrant’s Law. As you can see, I’ve already written about half a review just discussing two of them. Cithrin is still an amazing character and the reason I said “arguably” when I described Geder as my favourite, as, at some instances, it could be her too. Clara’s chapters show a side of the Capital that we weren’t privy to in the first two books, reflecting her fall from grace. War and horrid happenings feature throughout this novel but I felt that Clara’s chapters had a dark, high-stakes edge, where any page could ooze either violence, degradation, disruption, manipulation, or stark loyalty. Hers is another arc that weaves a complex and multifaceted presentation that just feels pretty special.
“Find competent, trustworthy servants, treat them with respect, and let them do their work. Listen when spoken to. Remember everybody’s name and something about the peculiarities of their lives. Forgive any mistake once, and none twice.”
In my previous reviews, I haven’t really talked too much about The Dagger and the Coin’s world-building. Before this novel, the series’ world-building seemed like interesting sprinkles and sparkles of information here and there, either through dialogues, plays, or historical texts, which tended to make it seem a fantasy tale rather than a political intrigue set of books. In The Tyrant’s Law, it’s as if these sprinkles and sparkles have finally settled, with more solid knowledge about The Dragon’s War given, enough information presented about the 13 races of humanity, and as some of the mysteries surrounding The Spider Goddess have become unshrouded. These neat moments and nuances have now been artfully fabricated to be of the utmost importance to the characters we follow in their current happenings.
There is a lot to admire in Abraham’s work. As mentioned, I didn’t enjoy this as much as the previous novel, but the author has moved the overall story forwards dramatically and multiplied the complexities and the stakes, again. This read was sitting at a steady and well-respected 3/5 stars but the fantastic endings move it up to 3.5/5. The Dagger and the Coin is bulging with potential and many wonderful elements. The series could be about to transcend and become something truly spectacular. I’m hopeful that The Widow’s House carries on doing what this series has done so well so far, and directs it to an engaging and breathtaking next level.
“Gifts create a sense of obligation,” she said. “Not debt, exactly, because it can’t be measured. And because it can’t be measured, it can’t be definitively repaid. If instead you’d given me the coin you spent to buy that, I’d know what I owed, and I could give it back and be done. By giving me a gift instead, you build the sense of owing without a path to repayment, and so I’m more likely, for example, to grant you a favor or make some concession that I’d never have agreed to if I’d been given an explicit price.”