Thursday, October 30, 2008

Book Review(s): The Long Price Quartet (in progress)

The last week has been somewhat rough at work. I've been taking solace in fiction.

Currently, I'm in the middle of the third book of the Long Price Quartet, a series written by Daniel Abraham, who I'd never read. I picked up the first book on a whim at the library. Have I mentioned that I love living two blocks from a brand new public library?

Anyway, the three books released in the series so far are:
The Price of Spring (Book Four) is, presumably, forthcoming, but I'm not sure when.

It had better be soon, because I've been tearing through these things. The novels are non-traditional fantasy (with a definite economic/political twist to them). The strength of the books is well-divided between plot, characterization, and setting - though it is the last of these that I'm going to talk about since it probably has the most relevance to games.

The world in which the novels are set is a world which has (as far as I can tell) exactly one sort of magic, that of the andat. The andat are concepts of action that normally exist in a potential state. They are bound into physical forms by the poets, who accomplish this by describing them perfectly and holding that description in their heads constantly. The andat wish to return to their natural state, but are tied into a symbiotic relationship with their poet.

There are only a dozen or so andat, and they are powerful, limited only by the concept they embody. An example is Removing-The-Part-That-Continues (known as Seedless), who keeps the port city of Saraykeht rich by easing the production of cotton - but could just as easily cause every pregnant female thing in the world to spontaneously abort their pregnancy.

The society and culture of the nation that holds the andat is rife with bits to stealing for fantasy RPGs. In addition to the andat themselves, the training regimen and organization of poets that bind them is fascinating, and is closely tied to the actual rule of the cities in a subtle and believable manner.

The society uses a complicated series of expressive postures to complement language, adding nuance. For instance, there might be a simple posture indicating regretful leavetaking. This could be colored with indications (or implications) of relative status, the likelihood of return, acceptance of a task, or any number of other things. Something like this could be really interesting in an rpg, where players are often describing the appearance and reactions of their characters anyway.

In addition to the cool ideas, the characters and story are great, too. I'm a fan.

No comments: