Fantasy Review: ‘Traitor’s Blade’ by Sebastien de Castell

Part 1: A reviewer gets excitedTraitor's Blade

Formerly close friend to the king himself, Falcio and his fellow ‘greatcloaks’ are now seen as a mockery by almost everyone.  The nobles of the land are in complete control; the laws he upheld to protect the common folk are as dead as his king.  And the man he was guarding has just met a bloody death; the killer helpfully writing out Greatcloak on the wall at the scene.  Strong set up, made even better by an author showing sharp wit in dialog, I was highlighting favorite passages almost immediately.  Falcio was a great voice, making me laugh and giving me back story just the way I like it; in interesting pieces around the main story rather than all at once. 

The humor is what really makes the early portions of this book shine, but it is not a comedy.  It is a swashbuckling adventure story with a pretty good setup.  The pacing was damn near perfect, quick moving and tight enough that getting lost would be impossible, yet with a decent amount of depth.  I love seeing some attention being paid to setting up the politics of the land, and this is a story where I am just as interested in those chapters set in the past as the current story line.  Great start.

Part 2: Problems Arise

Ah the old dead wife storyline, everyone’s favorite.  Now what if the dead wife affects the main character less than his dead king does?  Her minor role could have been left out completely and changed the story not at all; her horror story was pretty unnecessary overall, used for what?  Shock value?

Oh shock value, galore.  My whimsical, if dark, adventure story changes at some point in the middle.  Gone is a smart ass trying to do good in the big bad world.  In is a protagonist with rage issues.  And look, he is joined by a torture scene (always good for a laugh, right?), followed by a villain so sure of victory that the monologuing begins (thank you Pixar for that great term).  All set in a slightly unbelievable hell week the local Duke is putting a city through.  I am not really buying this right now.

I also am losing some of the believability at this point (in a book with cloaks better than armor and six on one sword fights).  Speeches are getting a bit long, a young noble girl is just a little too savvy for her age and experience, and I have to deal with a jailor speaking like Tarzan (“I am man…Is better than me).”

Uh-oh book, are you going to fall apart on me?  Because the magic healing prostitute pining for Falcio is telling me you may be…

Part 3: Faith is redeemed

Oh thank god, my promising book is back on the right track! Overjoyed am I.  Which is not to say it is the same book it started out as.  There was still some wit, and few nice bantering conversation.  But we are no longer in an adventure; the stakes have risen a bit too much to call it that.  The big reveal actually caught me by surprise, Falcio’s companions move from sidekicks to actual characters, and the less I say about a certain grandmotherly old lady the better her arc will work for those reading this book at a later time.

Fact is this book is just fun.  The witty banter alone makes it worth reading, and the (mostly) fun adventure story pushed it into ‘pretty damn good’ territory.  I didn’t love it as much as I hoped, but I liked it enough to start pining for the second book of the series as of…. NOW.

4 Stars

My reading copy was provided by the publisher for review.

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