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Lord Regent Geder Palliako's war has led his nation and the priests of the spider goddess to victory after victory. No power has withstood him, except for the heart of the one woman he desires. As the violence builds and the cracks in his rule begin to show, he will risk everything to gain her love or else her destruction.

Clara Kalliam, the loyal traitor, is torn between the woman she once was and the woman she has become. With her sons on all sides of the conflict, her house cannot stand, but there is a power in choosing when and how to fall.

And in Porte Oliva, banker Cithrin bel Sarcour and Captain Marcus Wester learn the terrible truth that links this war to the fall of the dragons millennia before, and that to save the world, Cithrin must conquer it.

495 pages, Paperback

First published August 5, 2014

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About the author

Daniel Abraham

243 books2,749 followers
Daniel James Abraham, pen names M.L.N. Hanover and James S.A. Corey, is an American novelist, comic book writer, screenwriter, and television producer. He is best known as the author of The Long Price Quartet and The Dagger and the Coin fantasy series, and with Ty Franck, as the co-author of The Expanse series of science fiction novels, written under the joint pseudonym James S.A. Corey.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 437 reviews
Profile Image for Petrik.
673 reviews42.7k followers
September 8, 2021
A penultimate installment filled with war, tactics, and intrigues. The stage for the conclusion of the series has been established nicely.

“These are the weapons that greater forces use against each other. Put two boys to fighting each other with sticks, and the boys may come away well or poorly, but the sticks will always be shattered.”

The Widow’s House by Daniel Abraham is the fourth and penultimate book in The Dagger and the Coin series. It picks up immediately from the big revelation that occurred at the end of The Tyrant’s Law. Due to the ending of the previous book, I found the first quarter of the novel to be incredibly fast-paced and exciting, especially because this is the fourth book of the series already, and I’ve gotten to know the characters really well. One of the biggest factors behind this is the inclusion of the new character: Inys. I can’t say too much on this; his identity definitely belongs in major spoiler territory. But let’s just say that the existence of Inys heightened and ramped up the pulse-pounding situation that our main characters faced. The themes of the novel are still the same. War, faith, politics, money, and family continue to be the most dominating themes of the narrative, and once again, Abraham executed these wonderfully.

“I’m afraid that even when the war ends, the man that comes back may not have much in common with the one that’s leaving.”

Looking back towards The Dragon’s Path, the first book of the series, it honestly felt like the characters have come so far. Compared to many other epic fantasy series, The Dagger and the Coin doesn’t have too many pivotal events. Usually, by book four of an epic fantasy series, a lot more world-shattering events would’ve occurred. This, of course, doesn’t mean that The Widow’s House is lacking in it; Abraham has successfully prepared the stage for the conclusion. However, it’s impressive that a series with relatively fewer epic events like this could show that the characters have certainly changed for better or worse. Marcus is probably the only character that doesn’t develop too much; he’s still more or less the same Marcus as he was in the beginning. But for Cithrin, the Kalliam family, Kit, and Geder Palliako? All of them have been dramatically influenced by the predicaments they’re in.

“I’m saying that tragedy is also something we are familiar with. Sudden loss or slow, deserved or the world’s caprice. We will ache and we will mourn and we will also play at the next stop with the parts rearranged.”

Similar to the previous three books, Geder Palliako’s chapters continue to be one of the highlights. I know I’m being incredibly repetitive in my reviews of the series regarding this character, but I have such conflicting emotions, in a good way, on Geder. I mean, think about it, he genuinely believes he’s always doing the right thing. He doesn’t have many friends, but he cares for his few friends. Plus, he’s fully determined to protect the people he cares about with every inch of power he has. Usually, attitudes like this would’ve earned him a place as one of the protagonists. But he’s not; he’s a villain. And he doesn’t even know or consider the possibility that he is a villain. The last chapter and line of his POV chapter were impactful and poignant. It’s all so intriguing to me, and I can’t wait to find out the conclusion to his story.

“We are what we are. Knowing what our strengths are and what our weaknesses are and making do with them is all any of us have.”

The other character that takes the spotlight in The Widow’s House is Cithrin bel Sarcour. Throughout the series, I’ve never felt fully invested in her character; I feel like her character’s development progressed a bit too slow. And yes, speaking of too slow, the pacing in the middle sections of The Widow’s House was a bit rough; I finished the first and last quarter in a day, but it took me five days to read the 50% in-between them. However, it’s all so worth it. Cithrin’s final chapters were brilliantly done. As she said, everything has a cost. I thought I knew the meaning behind the title of the series already, but Abraham’s smart implementation of money and gold in this book enhanced the meaning behind The Dagger and the Coin so much.

“How could gold and silver, silk and spice, contracts and agreements stand in the field against swords? It was ridiculous on the face of it, and like so many things, less ridiculous the more she looked at it.”

With The Widow’s House, Abraham displayed the myriad possibilities on how money can be used as a tool of destruction; just like swords and weapons. Despite my issues with the pacing in the middle section of the novel, I still think The Widow’s House worked as a penultimate novel. The stage for the hopefully satisfying conclusion has been set up now, and I sincerely hope The Spider’s War will deliver the powerful ending that this underrated series deserves.

“What’s gold? A metal too soft to take an edge. There’s no power there. What makes gold important is the story we tell about it. All of humanity has agreed that this particular object has value, and then because we all said so, it does. The metal hasn’t changed. It doesn’t breathe, it doesn’t bleed. It is what it was before. All we’re doing is telling that same story about some letters we’ve written.”

You can order the book from: Blackwells (Free International shipping)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions | I also have a Booktube channel

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Profile Image for Emma.
2,431 reviews827 followers
February 10, 2017
I love this series, I really do! This was the 4th of 5. I found this one to get off to a much faster start than the other volumes but possibly losing a little pace in the middle.
A lot of readers of this book have been disappointed that there wasn't more of Inys in the story, as I was initially; but now I think that would have been a trap cleverly avoided by Abraham. Afterall, Inys' appearance is relatively late in the 5 book story and to have him come in and dominate- well that would be a different fantasy story- one that is quite common. It would have ruined the balance between the Dagger and the Coin.
Really excited to read the final book in the series later this month.
Recommended but not unless you've read the first three in the series.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,493 reviews958 followers
November 6, 2014

The Dagger and Coin series is still building up towards a final showdown between a world ruled by force (the military expansion pushed forward by Geder Palliako and his fanatical priests) and one ruled by commerce and negociated settlements (where Cithrin Bel Sarcour fights to prove that banks are not parasites feeding on the blood of their hosts but engines of progress and purveyors of peace).

The mundane stories of trade against the grandiose epics of slaughter and war. It struck her how deeply deceitful both narratives were. The banks pretended that business was stable, reliable, and a bit dull. The priests pretended that war was glorious. And the kings and regents pretended they were in control of it all.

The theme was sketched early in the first volume, and so far the balance has inclined sistematically towards the military aggresion. With only one volume left to conclude the series, I was expecting to see some developments to reduce the odds and offer a credible alternative to the tyrant's law, as one of the previous volume was aptly titled. The solution is not only elegant, but also a great primer and analysis of banking history in our regular reality.

My point here was that the novel (and the series as a whole) is very satisfying as an intellectual exercise, but this aspect by itself would not justify the high regard I have for the author. I think I mentioned it before, but while a lot of new fantasy epic are compared to George R R Martin's Game of Thrones, this is one of the few that merits such comparison, mostly due to the excellent characterization, the detailed worldbuilding and the brutal changes of fortunes (or plot twists, if you prefer this more technical term). Fantasy back in the eighties war was often predictable in plot, a fellowship of good guys on a quest to defeat an evil overlord. With Abraham, I have come to expect the unexpected, and never take for granted who is the good guy and who the bad guy.

There is a temptation, I find, after you've learned enough plays and poems, to think the world follows the same patterns. I've found precious few tales where the heroes ride the winds on dragon's wings and then die from falling off a pier.

The best example of this ambivalence and subversion of tropes is Geder Palliako, more than as a criminally insane tyrant. On his opposite side is Cithrin Bel Sarcour, a young woman who has the good intentions, but whose actions result more than once in massive slaughter of innocents. Power corrupts everybody seems to be the logical deduction of the plot so far, if it were not for a bunch of secondary characters that refuse to accept the inevitable (Clara prominent among those)

Banking and commerce were a dance of information and deception, lies and facts and all the power that gold could provide, and she knew it better than she knew herself.

Beside Cithrin, there are as usual mercenary captain Marcus Wester, Master Kit and his troup of travelling actors. Beside Geder, there is Clara Kalliam and her family and friends, working to maintain their humanity and fight the terror from within the empire. All of them as thoroughly developed and interesting as the main two opponents. What this fourth book brings fresh to the epic is Inys, the last dragon, a relic of the master race that ruled the world millenia ago and even created (genetic manipulation?) the twelve humanoid races that populate the present world. He is one of the most traditional players in the game, arrogant and proud and short-tempered, but his entry opens up a whole new field of possibilities, plus a massive expansion of the world history. His best chapters are those describing his search for his lost brethren and his despair at seeing only ruins where once a great civilization flourished.

I am both glad now that the final book is scheduled for next year so I won't have much to wait for answers, and sad in advance that I will need to part with interesting people in whose fate I invested a lot of thought and emotion.
Profile Image for Scott  Hitchcock.
779 reviews224 followers
December 4, 2016
Another great installment. The plot has thickened and I cannot wait to read the last book. Inys was the great addition to this book. His causal arrogance and insouciant view of mankind was comedy gold. I do wonder
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
310 reviews1,326 followers
October 8, 2022
It's difficult for me to review The Widow's House without repeating sentiments from the previous three reviews I've done for this series, and without spoiling it by chatting about elements that make this book different from the previous entries.

I will say that The Widow's House starts off more action-focused than the previous books, and I really enjoyed each of the characters point of view perspectives, and where they are at with their particular journeys. There are some stunning standout moments, a few awesome reveals, and great sections when characters cross paths unexpectedly. It features battles, warfare, political manoeuvring, some ships, reading and research, and stuff to do with finances.

Everything works well here and this is probably one of my favourite two books of the series so far. I am fully engaged and ready for the end game and what could happen in The Spider's War. I'll revert back to more serious, full-length reviews for that one. I can safely say, though, that this series is really under-appreciated, especially when considering the excellent character creation and development that's on show throughout.
Profile Image for Marc *Dark Reader of the Woods*.
780 reviews130 followers
February 11, 2022
Another phenomenal book in a top-notch fantasy series. Still full of surprises. Onward to the final conflagration...

One thought: I read another fantasy book recently that used the term 'assets' to mean women's boobs. Of course this approach is sadly common. In contrast, The Widow's House I loved how Cithrin used her assets, as in, her literal financial assets, to get shit done. That's how you do it.
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
577 reviews824 followers
February 9, 2019
”It hardly matters what path we’ve walked to become what we are. Whatever it was, we’ve walked it.”

I started Widow’s House hoping it will tell me how an outcast widow works to bring down a tyranny from within. It didn’t. But it’s OK. You know why? Because as much as I love those Authors who meet my expectations, I love those who are able to surprise me even more.

And how easy it is to surprise in the 4th book of a series? Not very so, I’d say. The characters are set, the world is revealed, the plots are in motion. The repertoire of moves that could bring a frisson of excitement is at this point in a series quite limited.

And yet, Mr Abraham manages to introduce a game-changer and then cleverly flops things over before the reader manages to even think about a knock-out .

He also keeps redefining my conceptions concerning scary monsters. The main antagonist is just a person who doesn’t like to be laughed at and because he happens to be in a position of power he mingles good intentions with disastrous consequences and social ineptitude or awkwardness with pure survival instincts.

And, what I cherish most, character development that is not a graph from the starting point A through the turning point B to the final development C and a grand finale, but rather reminds me of an ivy climbing a trellis with a tentative sprout here and there, growing in an unruly crowd seemingly without sense and yet somehow organically coherent. The ability to write rich, genuine, complex characters is definitely one of Mr Abraham’s staples; it was true in the Long Price Quartet (sometimes to my chagrin) and proves to be the case also here. And while I could point out at things I don’t particularly like or have doubts about spectacular (yes, I mean it, just spectacular!) portrayal of the three of the main four protagonists (I am not so sure about Marcus Wester, sorry Captain) is something that kept me enthralled also in The Widow’s House.

In this penultimate instalment, all the elements of the tale are in balanced proportions but the pacing is somewhat less intense. Although I am able to justify the slower pace because the ‘coin’ requires more time to set up the schemes than the ‘dagger’ related shenanigans. At the moment, both seem to be failing though.

I hope that when salvation comes, it comes through books. (Well, book versus a spider? The outcome is obvious!).

Also in the series:

1. The Dragon's Path ★★★★☆
2. The King's Blood ★★★☆☆
3. The Tyrant's Law ★★★★★
5. The Spider War
Profile Image for Michael Pang.
74 reviews33 followers
August 27, 2014
A solid, but "unspectacular" installment in the Dagger and Coin series. If a trilogy can suffer 2nd book syndrome, maybe a quintet can suffer 4th book syndrome? I expect that this is merely the calm before the storm and we are in line for a strong finale.

A love sick Geder Palliako would have been a nice touch for part of the book, but listening to him pine for Cithrin the entire book slowed the pacing of an otherwise dynamic character. I mean, a super villain protagonist bent on conquering the world has to get out of bed, change out of the PJs and move on right?

An ancient and powerful fire breathing dragon who looks upon non-dragons as peons and slaves is unearthed. Game changer right? Not if said dragon is also suffering from a severe bout of depression and literally refuses to stop sleeping.

Characters are great as always. The movement of the plot seemed to be a steady build-up for the next book where we get to see the fates of Geder, Clara, Cithrin, Wester, etc. decided.
Profile Image for Nathan.
399 reviews123 followers
August 11, 2014
Fantasy Review Barn

You follow four great books, and what do you get?

Pissed off at Gedar and a nation in debt.

Finally the ‘Coin’ comes out in the Dagger and the Coin. This after all was the promise of the series; the landscape of the conflict was to involve both violence and economic pressures. How this would take place was anyone’s guess but the hint of what was to come was there from the first time we met the banker’s apprentice Cithrin. And if our first big insight into how economics would take over the world came off a bit too Ayla-like (complex modern system dreamed into existence by one super character), well that is just fine by me.

Because there is a bit of simplicity running through this series. Part of its charm is how easy to read it is; the first book certainly surprised me by seeming almost generic. But things are building upon the blocks laid out in books past and suddenly things that seemed so simple at first are just the start of what we are reading. The Dagger and the Coin has thus far never completely left the ‘classic fantasy’ mold (as in Euro-centric Tolkien inspired), but it carefully steps outside the lines more and more as it has gone on. I think I have said it before; this is not a series that takes every trope and tries to break it. Rather it tries to twist them so far around that they look almost normal again; just with a little nagging feeling that we are being played with in some way.

Book three, The Tyrant’s Law, ended with a pretty mighty reveal so naturally that is where The Widow’s House picks up. The opponents of Geder have picked up a pretty nifty trick to use against him, if they think they can control it. It is something they have to try though because Geder’s march across the land seems unstoppable. The spider priests have brought him victory after victory. The story remains fairly simple from there; Geder pushes his war and pines for the vision of love that he built in his mind. Cithrin genuinely wants to do good but still struggles to control her own way and break the invisible chains the bank has placed on her. Clara does what she can to keep her family safe and undermine Gedar. And Marcus, who would be the main character in many series, fades to the background despite his adventures.

Those little details are what make it all stand out though. The, well let’s call it a secret weapon, that Kit and Marcus found? Turns out it made people over confident, led to an event that could have killed all hope. But as failure seems inescapable a new hope is formed from it. And our pitiful tyrant? I know how nasty he can be, I SEE how nasty he can be, yet often times seeing things through his point of view almost makes me feel sorry for him. Almost, but never will I be fooled again.

I was right about one thing after book three, Clara continues to threaten to take over the entire series. Both of Abraham’s ongoing series have middle aged to elderly women that I can’t wait to read about. Clara is strong, resilient, and cunning. She takes charge when she has to yet knows when to stay back. Her sense of loyalty and duty is so much stronger than her husband’s was in the first book. She has become my favorite character, displacing both Cithrin and Master Kit for the title.

This is a series that gets better and better. It remains simple but subtle. With its tight cast and focused stories lines it will never be the book that requires a binder full of notes to keep tract of but it is gaining in depth with every outing. Each provides just a bit more info about something that happened before, changing the perception of events each time. If you are already reading the series, catch up! This is another solid outing. If you are not reading the series don’t be intimidated; the four books here are shorter than they look but page turners to the last. You will be caught up in no time.

4 Stars

Review copy provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,647 reviews1,691 followers
March 30, 2017
I feel like the time for me to realize this series wasn’t for me was back after book one or two, but I can’t quit now because I only have ONE book left and that would sit in the back of my brain gnawing with tiny teeth for the rest of my life, so I must finish this series even though I already know it’s not for me. So. Take my review with a grain of mountain-sized salt.

I still can’t figure out why this series doesn’t resonate with me. I should probably just call it a day, and sum it up by saying that some books just don’t mesh with some readers. But the truth is that something prevented me from becoming emotionally attached to these characters from the get-go, and now that we’re four books in, the time is long past where the book should have to win me over to liking them. At this point, I should be in it with them, waiting eagerly to hear how things turn out for them, how they end up. But I just don’t care. Listening to this series has become an exercise in emotional detachment.

Except for the bits with the dragon* in. I genuinely loved all those bits, and my emotional engagement in the scenes where Inys was present made me wish rather earnestly that I liked the rest of the story as much.

*But seriously, the thing with the dragons here is so cool. In this world, dragons were the first sentient beings, and they created humanity, which here is made not just of regular old humans (which they call First Bloods), but twelve other tribes of “humanity” that include everything from mer-creatures (the Drowned) to humans with horns (the Yemu), and pale wraith-like slender things (Cinnae). But the dragons died out ages ago in a mysterious war. Last book, one of the main characters woke Inys, the last dragon, and his whole thing this book is stomping around and being angry. It was very entertaining.

Not sure when I’ll get to the last book. Ideally, I’d like to finish this series by the end of the year, just to finally have it be done. And I probably won’t read any more stand-alone Daniel Abraham fantasy, though I continue to be obsessed with his work as one half of the pseudonym James S.A. Corey.
Profile Image for Myke Cole.
Author 31 books1,736 followers
June 21, 2017
I've written before that Abraham's experience as a protege of Martin is plain in his work. His epic style, his ensemble cast, his multiple POVs all evoke what's best about ASOIAF. But I've also said that Abraham corrects many of the mistakes his mentor makes, avoiding the sprawl and story creep that makes the later ASOIAF books so drifting.

The Widow's House continues this amazing epic tradition, marking Abraham as one of the best voices in epic fantasy. It is an absolute crime that a book as well characterized and plotted as this one, with such evocative prose and dialogue, hasn't achieved the same level of fame as Martin's work. It deserves that and more.
Profile Image for Emelia .
131 reviews92 followers
December 16, 2017
Thank you book Gods.....Abraham has 1 more book in the series !
Bring on the Spider Priest muah ha hahahahahaha
Profile Image for Rob.
848 reviews535 followers
August 9, 2016
Executive Summary: While not quite as good as The Tyrant's Law, another solid book that sets things up nicely for the final book.

Audio book: Pete Bradbury once again gives a great performance, making audio the best way to do this series in my opinion.

Full Review
Well dammit. I've enjoyed this series so much that now I've caught up and have to wait a year or more for the next and final book. Thankfully unlike some other authors it seems like I won't have to wait too long for the conclusion, and that will definitely be a release day read for me.

Once again this is a very character-driven story that focuses on economics and politics more than magic and battles. There is a lot of fighting going on, but we usually only see the before or the after and very little fighting.

Similarly there is magic, but it's all very hand wavy and not well fleshed out. In fact one of the characters wonders why so many practitioners make their money by doing tricks and aren't utilized in fighting only to be told that conjuring fire isn't nearly as effective in the long term as a bow and arrow.

I liked this book a little less than the last one however. I think it's partially due to Clara's chapters for the first half of the book. She felt more like a camera than an important character. For awhile I was wondering why exactly she was doing what she was, but by the end it made sense and I she might have regained her status as my favorite character.

Meanwhile Marcus's chapters are probably are probably the most interesting. Anyone who finished the last book should be able to guess why that is.

This book really highlights the differences of obtaining power by using military might and money. The title Dagger and Coin was well chosen by Mr. Abraham as we see both approaches to gaining power and attempts to bring about "peace" and order.

I really enjoy this series, which should be obvious if you look at how quickly I've listened to it. It's nice to have a fantasy series that feels realistic without being "grimdark". Plus I really enjoy the characters and the importance of money not being glossed over or relegated to minor subplot.

If my last 3 reviews haven't convinced you, hopefully this one will to catch up with the series before the final book comes out.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,260 reviews222 followers
November 15, 2015
On the downhill run with this series now and you can see where it's going to finish in the final volume from here.

Marcus and Kit find and awaken the dragon Inys, whose information about the origin of the spiders fills in important gaps. Geder falls deeper into his psychopathy with his obsession with Cithrin being a handy excuse to extend the Antean conflict even further afield, even as far as Porte Olivia. Meanwhile Clara continues to plot and takes desperate action by following her son Jory into battle, but the Antean forces are finally beginning to be stretched too thin, as are the spider priests. Cithrin's planning also comes to bear with a desperate experiment that she commits the Medean bank to.

In many respects the last three books have been about spiraling into greater disaster. It was inevitable that the story had to turn at some point, and there are several major plot points that the series will turn on unveiled in this volume.

Looking forward to the last one.

Profile Image for Terry.
344 reviews74 followers
February 3, 2019
This is a terrific series, filled more with intrigue and character than with battles and brute force. Book 4 is a great continuation and one that starts to draw the series towards its conclusion. There is still much to learn in book 5 and I’m looking forward to that conclusion with excitement!
Profile Image for Lee.
351 reviews192 followers
June 18, 2015
Well I have to say that this book is my favourite so far. Having pretty much read 4 in a row I am right back into this story. I was worried that it was going to fizzle out on me as i found it bogging down somewhat in the last book.
This book however does pick up the pace a fair bit, especially since the first line in the book mentions a dragon flying, which means after many many pages, finally the bloody dragons are part of the story in reality. I was beginning to think that would be no magic in this book, just some odd races. I don't really count the Spider Priests ability as a magic aspect, because those of you who have read Bakkers Series know that telling whether people are telling the truth is easy when there are hundreds of facial muscles.

Back the story. I really have enjoyed the continuing cultivation of the main characters in this book. I love the Marcus/Yardem less is good conversations and I have really enjoyed the growth of Cithrin, flaws and all. I still believe that Geder has the potential to be an amazing character, I think he is really good, but there is so much the author could do with this character. i was a little disappointed at his love sickness in this, but given the work that the author put in to get him to that position I am forgiving. I am hoping that in book 5, we see Geder start to have some doubts in the Goddess and start to question what he is doing. I am thinking we are seeing hints of that with the way he has begun to act as Uncle Geder.

One last comment, Marcus and the Dragon chatting has been 9so far) a fun read that has me smiling.

Looking forward to leaping into the next one and seeing how these characters play out.
Profile Image for Maggie K.
471 reviews120 followers
May 10, 2016
When I sat down to write this, I realized it kind of didn't make sense how much I liked this book....It was all about banking ideas, and an army on the march. Should be kind of boring, right? NOPE! For some reason it still seemed pretty action packed.
I will note that the dragon really didn't do much, which was a bit of a disappointment.
Profile Image for Pauline Ross.
Author 10 books296 followers
November 2, 2016
Warning: this is the fourth book in a five-book series, and for anyone who hasn't read all the previous books, there will be spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk.

When I first saw the title of this book, I deduced that the widow was Clara, whose husband Dawson was executed as a traitor in a previous book. Clara had a walk-on part in the first book, and her own chapters thereafter, but now she finally takes centre-stage, not necessarily as a player in her own right (although to some extent she is), but more specifically as the mother of sons involved in different ways in the ongoing war. So, the widow's house: not a physical house, but house as in family.

Clara is one of four point of view characters, to cover the full scale of the war that's been gradually building since book one. The four are: Geder, the Regent and spider-priest-motivated driving force behind it; Cithrin, the banker opposed to him for personal as well as ideological reasons; Marcus the soldier with a long, battle-scarred history; and Clara herself. The book follows the Game of Thrones principle, where chapters from different characters rotate, although here the rotation is quite regular. This has the usual disadvantage: a cliff-hanger at the end of a chapter can't be resolved until that character's turn comes round again, usually four chapters later. Authors, please don't do this, it's very annoying. At its best, the plot flows seamlessly from one character's point of view to the next, but mostly there's that little hiccup of adjustment when you flip to a new chapter, that where-were-we? moment.

When Abraham pitched this series, he offered either a three book version or this, the five book version. This is the first point at which I'm tempted to say: three might have been better. The actual events of this book could be written on half an A4 sheet of paper, and not using an abnormally small font, either. The story doesn't sprawl in the way that some other, very expansive, series do (George R R Martin, I'm looking at you...), but it isn't tightly written, either. Now, in the hands of a master wordsmith like Abraham, this isn't a problem. A chapter curls around you like smoke, warm and comforting (like Clara’s pipe, if you want the full analogy), and it's only afterwards that you think: nothing very much happened there. This is particularly obvious with Clara's thread, since she's thrown into the role of an observer of the war and not much else. I like Clara, but her plotline was stretched very thin here.

The author's great strength (OK, one of his many great strengths - can you tell I'm a fan?) is the depth of characterisation and so it is here. All the characters feel fully rounded and as real as anyone you could meet in real life. Even Geder, or perhaps especially Geder. In many ways he’s a villain of the first order, but also a deeply insecure and uncertain man. And some of his moments with Prince Aster, the heir to the throne, show him as a caring, even compassionate man, with a certain wisdom. His care for the pregnant wife of his best friend (and possibly only friend) is both moving and slightly creepy in its intensity. The previous books were littered with horrifying 'Geder moments' like the burning of Vanai, or the summary execution of his closest advisers, with the result that you tiptoe through Geder’s chapters wondering when he’s going to explode. He still has no sense of perspective, and puts far too much trust in the spider priests who have an agenda of their own. The most worrying aspect of Geder, for me, is that I actually like him, or, I suppose, pity and sympathise with him. He's done some terrible things, but he's also an enormously tragic character, and part of me desperately wants him to find a happy ending, to settle down somewhere to a quiet, obscure life with his books.

Cithrin, on the other hand, irritates me. She always has, although her juvenile behaviour in the early books was at least understandable by virtue of her age and social inexperience. Her sole function seems to be to do incredibly stupid things for most of the book, or to lounge around in a drunken depression, getting into trouble and being rescued by everyone else, and then pull a rabbit out of a hat at the last minute and have everyone proclaim her a genius. Two cities have fallen solely because of her stupidity, and she's not done yet. Pah. Marcus I like a lot, although he's typical of the stoical, worldly-wise, slightly cynical warrior type, whose experience keeps him out of a lot of trouble. And keeps others out of trouble too. But then I have a soft spot for stoical, slightly cynical warrior types. And I do like sidekick Yardem. Especially his ears. It was nice to find out a little more of their dramatic history, and highly entertaining when the pair of them turned up at Carse to have everyone say: ‘Yeah, yeah, sure you’re Marcus Wester and Yardem Hale… Whoa!’

While we're on the subject of characters, I’m a big fan of Vincen Coe, Clara’s servant-turned-lover, but please, Mr Abraham, will you stop beating him up? However, my absolute favourite in this book has to be Inys (and if you don't know who Inys is, go back and reread book three, last chapter). Everything he says and does is entirely believable, given his history and his nature. Plus he has some of the best moments in the book. Him and the pirates. I mean, pirates and a dragon - what are you waiting for, folks? Go out and buy this book immediately.

There are a few minor grumbles. The cunning men (sorcerers, basically) become even more useful in this book, but there’s no explanation of what they do or how it works. Much of their capability is dismissed as mere trickery, put on to impress people, yet their talent for healing seems to be quite real and rather useful. A little more detail about them would be nice. And a surprising grumble: my Kindle version had an astonishing number of typos in it, far more than I would expect in a major release like this (and this wasn’t an ARC copy, it was the actual day-of-release version).

This book feels far more like a transition than the previous ones in the series. Everything is being put in place for the final confrontation, but there were no huge out-of-nowhere moments, just some nice little twists that made me smile. And somehow it felt repetitious, both in phraseology (fingers were repeatedly laced together, cotton was fresh from the boll), but also in plot terms - the Cithrin plan, the dramatic escapes, the out-of-nowhere attacks, yet I never felt that the main characters were seriously at risk. Even Geder was milder this time round, still creepy as hell, especially over Cithrin, but perhaps less likely to explode at any moment, channelling his energies into his best friend’s wife and baby, and a clever little piece of engineering research. However, the important factor in this book was the shift in attitude. From being an unstoppable force, Geder and the spider priests now have vulnerabilities, and the opposition have plans and weapons. And a dragon. Inys wasn't the get-out-of-jail-free card that might have been expected, but he's still a wild card. I have no idea how this is going to end, but I can't wait to find out. Four stars.
Profile Image for Jody .
201 reviews133 followers
May 24, 2016
Great continuation of the story. This was my favorite book in the series so far. Questions that I have had for the last couple of books are finally being revealed. We finally get our first battle scene in a while, which was awesome, but this story isn't really about the battle part of war. Even though there has pretty much been war throughout the story. This is more of a chess game. With pieces being maneuvered over the span of this series to come to an epic conclusion. If you come into this series expecting battle after battle you will be disappointed, or maybe you won't if you give the story time to get going. I didn't expect the story to play out like it has, and I am glad it hasn't. I have really enjoyed this series. This is one I will definitely be coming back to in the future. Well, until next time, it's on to The Spider's War.

Profile Image for Sotiris Karaiskos.
1,139 reviews80 followers
February 5, 2017
Λίγο πριν το τέλος φτάνουμε σε ένα βιβλίο που μπορώ επιτέλους να το χαρακτηρίσω αρκετά συναρπαστικό. Υπ��ρχουν πολλές ενδιαφέρουσες εξελίξεις που φτάνουν τους ήρωες μας στα όριά τους και πέρα από αυτά, μας βάζουν σε σκέψεις για τη φύση του πολέμου και στήνουν το σκηνικό για το τελευταίο μέρος που λογικά όλα θα ξεκαθαρίσουν. Για αυτές τις στιγμές άκουγα με αγωνία για να μάθω τι θα γίνει θα βάλω κάτι παραπάνω.
Profile Image for Emily .
728 reviews74 followers
January 16, 2016
I'm torn between giving this 2 or 3 stars. I loved Long Price series and The Expanse books - but this series is solidly in the "average" category - this book specifically is the worst of the series. Let me save you the trouble of reading it - nothing happens. Seriously - skip this book and move to the last one and I think you'd be OK.

This book is BORING. I was forcing myself to read it. Towards the end, there was a marginal improvement in being less boring, but this one is rough. It's very reminiscent of the Song of Ice and Fire series. The last few books suck - there are tons of people traveling, doing unimportant things, but nothing happens and the plot doesn't really advance at all. Same for this one. I'm so disappointed. It's a filler book.

I found Cithrin to be very unlikable - I never really enjoyed her as a character, but she's even worse in this book. If I want to read about accountants I prefer The Traitor Baru Cormorant.

Geder was also terrible in this book - not terrible in the way the villain should be, but terrible like an emo teenager who can't get over himself. His entire story arc was just him whining.

Clara - who I like - also boring in this book. Her entire story line this book is ridiculous. It's not believable at all that she'd follow her sons across the world and into war. Vincent Coe was the only good parts of her chapters.

Marcus at least was interesting still and I really enjoy the interactions with him, Kit and Yardem.

Also - I loved the depressed dragon - he was probably the best part of the book.

Profile Image for Trent.
315 reviews41 followers
October 15, 2020
I'm continuing to really enjoy this very underrated series. This book felt a little slower than the previous two; it's clear that things are being put into place for the final book. That said, it's still a tightly written and very entertaining book with marvelously realized characters.

*(I'm going to give a quick plot update on the main characters, and will do my best to avoid spoilers, but it is difficult when you are this far along. I can promise that this review contains no spoilers for either this book or book 3 in the series, but books 1 and 2 are fair game.)*

Marcus and Cithrin are reunited as Cithrin continues to struggle to find a way to defeat Antea and the Spider priests. She eventually comes up with an unorthodox and, frankly, brilliant scheme to not only win the war, but hopefully destroy the 'idea' of war in itself. This is the moment when this series officially becomes the 'Dagger' vs the 'Coin'.

Clara continues to live a double life, pretending to be a soft-spoken widow and doting mother, all the while secretly plotting against the Spider Priests. Her story was simultaneously the most riveting and the most rewarding, especially at the end.

And finally, we have Geder. I've said it before - Geder is the most sympathetic villain in any series I have ever read. I'm not even sure he IS a villain, or at least not on purpose. Unfortunately, he is so blinded and corrupted by Basrahip and the Spider Priests at this point that I wonder if redemption is even possible for him. I'm definitely anxious to find out. A small part of me hopes that there is, because there are aspects of his personality that mirror my own, and I want to think that I would never allow myself to be so corrupted. This is the genius of Abraham's writing - the reader identifies with every character.

In conclusion, this is a series that you should be reading, if only for the incredible characters. This book was a solid 4.5 star read, and I can't wait to read the final act of the series, 'The Spider's War'!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rob.
521 reviews36 followers
September 20, 2014
...I have often wondered what this series could have been if Abraham had taken a few more chances. He consciously avoids a number of overused tropes of the genre (the promised one, a clear good versus evil story, quests for magical artifacts etcetera) and includes elements in the plot that you don't come across often. The banking, the way he handles female characters and his take on religious fanaticism are good examples of that. Despite all that, the series has a very familiar feel to it for readers of epic fantasy. As Abraham said himself, he aims to do epic fantasy exceptionally well. While te result is familiar, comfortable and pleasant reading, it does leave me with the sense of unfulfilled potential. The Widow's House is another solid entry in the series but one that leaves me in doubt whether the final volume will be able to make me shake the feeling this series could have been more than Abraham has made of it.

Full Random Comments review
Profile Image for Liviu.
2,251 reviews630 followers
July 23, 2014
I really liked The Widow's House - more than I expected for sure as the series so far has been a fairly consistent read but missing something (whether exuberance or larger than life characters not quite sure as the world building and storyline is top notch) to put it in my top-top;

same pov's (Clara, Cithrin, Geder, Marcus), action in many places, the invention of government fiat money, the usual prologue and last chapter from a different pov, cast, taxonomy races

overall The Widow's House worked much better than #3 from all points of view and I guess one reason was that it became more intense as things start both converging (Anthea's war of conquest is coming home to our heroes) and expanding (now everyone starts getting involved, there is a lot about the past as the strange character from the end of book 3 becomes important here); lots of stuff happens and the ending is again at a good stopping point promising a lot for the next (final?) installment

Profile Image for David.
2,550 reviews80 followers
March 8, 2016
So good to be back among old friends. Very easy to pick up after being away from the series for so long. Best novels of the series so far. Every little thing is paying off big time! This volume and quite lifted my esteem for both the author and the series. Quite good. Should please most fantasy fans. Much better than some more popular Fantasy series that I can think of...
Profile Image for Mike.
1,115 reviews153 followers
October 29, 2016
It...doesn't...get...better...than...this! Fourth in the series and still excellent. Great heroes and heroines and supporting characters. Like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, I can see this on screen, battles, intrigues, quests, dragons, darkness, light, all the elements of a great tale told well.
Five Stars Number Five sits on the bedside table, anxious and, yet not, to start the final trip.
Profile Image for Steve.
372 reviews70 followers
September 29, 2017
Marvellous series. Broad range of interesting characters, not least being the 'villain', a slightly sad bullied aristocrat who accidentally becomes a powerful leader of a military expansionist state. He goes the dictatorial way his position requires but you still feel sorry for him. Plus the religion that starts to corrupt him and his state. Also some interesting economic theory stuck in and used as a weapon by the resistance!
Profile Image for Tudor Ciocarlie.
457 reviews215 followers
December 23, 2014
The pieces are set for the final battle in this fourth volume of a series that is without a doubt one of the most intelligent epic-fantasy series that you'll ever encounter.
Profile Image for Joanne.
575 reviews55 followers
February 16, 2022
Daniel Abraham's has moved in with Robin Hobb at the top of my all time favorite writers.

In this, the 4th book of a quintet, the story of the dragons and their loss comes forth. Inys, the loan survivor of that war, is written with charm enough to love him yet so full of himself you can't help but put him in the "dislike a bit" column. Like all of Abrahams characters, well rounded and real enough to believe in. All of the other characters grow, as characters should in a good read, and you cannot help thinking of them as good friends you love to hang with.

I cannot say enough about Abraham's writing. Probably one of the best in the business, and it is a shame more people are not reading him. Love Epic fantasy? Are you like me-if the writing is not up to par, you throw in the towel? Then pick up this series and give this author a chance. He also has a new series coming out that begins with Age of Ash. I am heading right into book 5 of this series The Spider's War, then going back to an older work of his A Shadow in Summer. He also writes Sc-Fi under the pen name James S.A. Corey and wrote graphic novels for A Game of Thrones #1. If George R.R. Martin believes in him so should you!
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