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Nathan’s review of Blade of Dream by Daniel Abraham (Orbit Books, 18 July 2023), a resonant love story that is slightly more generic than expected from such a great author.

Plot Summary

Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories endure.

This is Garreth’s.

Garreth Left is heir to one of Kithamar’s most prominent merchant families. The path of his life was paved long before he was born. Learn the family trade, marry to secure wealthy in-laws, and inherit the business when the time is right. But to Garreth, a life chosen for him is no life at all.

In one night, a chance meeting with an enigmatic stranger changes everything. He falls in love with a woman whose name he doesn’t even know, and he will do anything to find her again. His search leads him down corridors and alleys that are best left unexplored, where ancient gods hide in the shadows, and every deal made has a dangerous edge.

The path that Garreth chooses will change the course of not only those he loves, but the entire future of Kithamar’s citizens.

In Kithamar, every story matters — and the fate of the city is woven from them all.

Review of Blade of DreamReview of Blade of Dream

Blade of Dream is the sequel to Age of Ash, last year’s first entry into Abraham’s Kithamar trilogy. However, the book’s relationship to Age of Ash, and the larger story Abraham is telling, is much more complex than that. Rather than a traditional sequel, picking up after the events of the previous book, Blade of Dream is more of a sidequel or companion piece. The events of Blade of Dream overlap with those from Age of Ash, occurring at the same time in the fictional city of Kithamar. What ultimately results is a unique reading experience as readers gradually uncover more of the mystery of Kithamar, particularly as it pertains to where the true power of Kithamar resides, while also getting introduced to a beautiful standalone love story.

Reading Blade of Dream I think the unique construction of the Kithamar trilogy works better in theory than in practice, as the actual execution of the larger, over-arching plot leaves a bit to be desired. However, at the end of the day Blade of Dream still tells an interesting standalone story, full of the wonderfully deep characters and complex interactions that you would expect from one of Daniel Abraham’s fantasy novels.

(I should also note that while about 2/3 of the book would make complete and total sense without having read Age of Ash, you really need to have read Age of Ash first to understand the last chunk of the book.)

I think what I ultimately liked best about Blade of Dream was Abraham’s fearless tact to forge its own path. Age of Ash was a lot of things; a heist novel; a book full of political intrigue and dark magic that ran all of the way up to the very top of the power hierarchy; a story about loss, grief, and tackling the worst parts of the human experience. While Abraham finds small, minute ways to bring all of these into Blade of Dream, this sequel is ultimately about love and how its ability to transcend the arbitrary and unjust structures of society. Thus, Blade of Dream is much more narrow in its scope, for better and for worse, than its predecessor as it really hones in on one whirlwind romance and the struggles that result from it.

The core couple of the book, Elaine and Garreth, are both immediately likable. Elaine and Garreth were quite unexpected coming from an author like Abraham, who often challenges his reader with morally complex characters. Instead, Elaine and Garreth are two young people trapped in both ordinary gender/class divides and the extraordinary magical power that resides in Kithamar. While not simple victims of the power systems under which they live, they are also good people at heart – two people who just want to find their way to each other. Therefore, I liked Elaine and Garreth more than Alys from Age of Ash, but I was less invested in their story. Elaine and Garreth are Abraham characters, so of course they were absolutely wonderful, but they lacked that overall depth and complexity I got with Alys (or Otah and Mati from Abraham’s Long Price Quartet). This is probably down to personal preference, but I really enjoyed Alys’ enduring anger, grief, and desire to destroy a system that was set out to destroy her. Elaine and Garreth’s love story felt a tad too quaint and generic in comparison to Alys’ struggles and character arc.

And really this is my biggest issue with Blade of Dream – everything felt a bit too generic. Blade of Dream was every other European-inspired fantasy novel that I had ever read…just rewritten by Abraham to add a bit more depth. The Kithamar Trilogy promised getting to explore this new city from multiple perspectives and angles, and I really didn’t get that here. Blade of Dream doesn’t really add much depth to Kithamar, and the book is really lacking in the vivid descriptions and sense of place that made Age of Ash transcend other books with similar settings. In Blade of Dream Kithamar really lacks that unique timbre and feel that great fantasy cities have; rather than being a star of the show, the setting becomes a simple window dressing. This was a bit dissapointing because the entire promise of the trilogy was a deeper and deeper feel for this city and the structures that power it.

And since Blade of Dream is tied up in a fairly straightforward romance plot, the entire book doesn’t quite reach the magic of what I have come to expect from Daniel Abraham. By the last third or quarter of the book the plot kicks into overdrive and intersects more explicitly with some of the dangling questions left from Age of Ash, but I perhaps set my expectations a bit too high for this one.

Longtime Daniel Abraham fans know that his series are alway slow burns, and I am hoping that the next book in the series completely and utterly changes my perspective on Blade of Dream (not unlike how the last two books in the Long Price Quartet changed my mind about the first two, or how The Dagger and the Coin took a couple of books to really get cooking). Abraham is the master of dropping plot seeds seemingly in random corners without the reader noticing, and then whipping the fully grown plant at your face when you least expect it. I can only imagine that is what is happening here, and so this book only made me want the next book in the series even more.

Concluding Thoughts: While its contribution to the overarching narrative is a bit generic, Blade of Dream still tells a compelling love story about two likeable characters. While lacking the depth of Abraham’s previous main characters, and lacking the vivid description and sense of place readers found in Age of Ash, Blade of Dream is still a Daniel Abraham novel, with all of the complexity and nuance you have come to expect. A step down from his previous books, but hopefully I’ll read it in a new light once the trilogy is complete.

Thank you for reading my review of Blade of Dream!


Nathan is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology where he specializes in death rituals of the Ice Age in Europe and queer theory. Originally from Ohio, he currently lives in Kansas where he teaches college anthropology, watches too much TV, and attempts to make the perfect macarons in a humid climate. He is also the co-host of The Dragonfire podcast with James Lloyd Dulin. He reads widely in fantasy and sci-fi and is always looking for new favorites!

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