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A Betrayal in Winter: Book Two of the Long Price Quartet    by Daniel Abraham order for
Betrayal in Winter
by Daniel Abraham
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2007 (2007)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

A Betrayal in Winter follows A Shadow in Summer (taking place a decade and a half later) as the second in Daniel Abraham's wonderful Long Price Quartet. It takes place in a civilization, the Khaiem, where Poets fuel the economy via their magical bindings of andats - powerful 'Concepts translated into a form that includes volition'. But the number of andats is dwindling and foreigners (the Galts) plot against the Khaiem.

In the first book, Galt agents worked to destroy Poet Heshai in the southern summer city of Saraykeht. Otah Machi, the sixth son of the despotic Khai Machi, rejected the cruel discipline of a Poet's training and fled his heritage to hide himself as Itani, a common laborer. Learning of the Galt plot, Itani was forced to take a pivotal role and to make a hard decision. Heshai's new apprentice, young Poet Maati Vaupathai - who knew Otah from their training days and became his friend for a time - was embroiled in all of this. Maati later became involved with Otah's lover Liat, who bore a son, Nayiit.

As the second book opens, Itani works as a courier for House Siyanti in Udun. His father is slowly dying, and his elder brother Biitrah, a good man and a skilled engineer, is murdered. Though brothers killing each other off is the norm when a Khai dies, it does not happen in the usual way this time. The remaining brothers deny all knowledge of the assassination, and suspicion falls on their missing youngest brother Otah. While this is happening, Otah/Itani is given a new assignment, one that takes him back to the world of his childhood and into a trap that tightens inexorably around him.

In parallel, kind-hearted Maati, who has lived in disgrace in the village of the poets since events in Saraykeht, is summoned by the poets' powerful leader, the Dai-kvo, and asked to discover whether Otah killed Biitrah, under the guise of research in the Machi library. In chilly Machi, Maati is befriended by young poet Cehmai Tyan - who's responsible for the andat Stone-Made-Soft - and his investigation is aided by the insights of bad-tempered librarian Baarath. Cehmai also becomes involved with the Khai Machi's wilful daughter Idaan, who's betrothed to a minor noble, Adrah Vaunyogi.

In this second in this most promising series, Daniel Abraham interweaves an excellent murder mystery with an absorbing fantasy set in a unique and masterfully developed world. And he adds even more strong, individualistic characters to an already potent mix. This time, it's Cehmai and Maati who face hard choices, but make ethical decisions. And Otah is forced to stop running from his past, but rather to deal with it, before he can consider starting his own family. If you haven't opened up this excellent series yet, start reading!

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