I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the best parts of being a book blogger is the opportunity to read books I might not pick up myself. Left to my own devices, I might browse through my haven (bookstore) reading book jackets and buying novels with pretty front covers. And in that case, I probably would have walked on by Sebastien de Castell’s Traitor’s Blade, a romping Three Musketeer’s type tale of swordplay, heroism, treachery, and a quest for a king’s treasure.
When I received an email offering up Traitor’s Blade, my first instinct was suspicion. “It’s a little out of my genre. Which isn’t always a bad thing as I’ve recently loved Night Film and Doctor Sleep, and I never did horror or thriller before. Is it in the same vein as Game of Thrones?” (Honest question if you look at the synopsis below in italics).
It is SO not Game of Thrones (which wouldn’t be a bad thing). It’s also nothing like I’ve ever read (it’s not Diana Gabalon, or Marion Zimmer-Bradley, or The Hunger Games, or even Red Rising – review to come soon). This is a fantasy adventure novel, but with such a lighthearted and casual tone that it could be for children. Btw, it’s definitely for grown-ups (there’s the odd snippet of lovely and totally appropriate cursing). The author is obviously very knowledgeable and passionate about the art of swordplay, but also a diligent student of human nature and a master storyteller. (De Castell is a former archaeologist who is a fight choreographer, actor, teacher, and works at the Vancouver Film School – Duh.)
Traitor’s Blade is the first book in an epic series from a refreshing new voice, Sebastien de Castell. It echoes with the clash of swords and the whistle of arrows, but in a world where corruption and betrayal are the most lethal weapons of all.
Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding the King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom and impaled the King’s head on a spike.
Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.
All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside and watch their world burn…
The premise behind the novel totally engaging – this world of Tristia is full of magic, heroism, villains, princesses, and fabulous action. The creation of this fake land (that isn’t set in any particular time or place) is so well done that it is believably real. At no time did I have to suspend my disbelief – I just sort of moved in. The seriousness and complexity of the plot and character studies are couched in de Castell’s unique writing style, which makes Traitor’s Blade a really fun read. In particular, I enjoyed the bromantic repartee between the three Greatcoats (Falcio, Kest, and Brasti). These guys really had each others’ backs. Falcio Val Mond made an excellent leading man – complex, warm, and troubled. I hope we see learn more about the other boys in the subsequent novels.
If I could find any critique it would be in the continuity. About 2/3 of the way through, a female character popped up (supposedly for the third time), but even flipping back through the pages, I couldn’t find her, which was confusing and distracting, especially because she was important to Falcio’s character development. But, I let go and moved on, and all was right with the world.
While Traitor’s Blade might not be for everyone, it certainly grew on me. If you’re looking for something different and entertaining to read (and share with your teenaged son), this is your book.
Now go forth and learn the difference between broadsword and rapier.