Traitor’s Blade – Sebastien de Castell

About the Book

The laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their 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 as they watch their world burn.

370 pages (hardcover)
Published on March 6, 2014 (UK)
Published on July 1, 2014 (US)
Published by Jo Fletcher Books
Author’s webpage

This book was provided for me to review by the publisher.

Recently a wonderful person at Jo Fletcher Books emailed me, asking if I would like to be put on the reviewer list. I basically said, ‘HELL YES’ in no uncertain terms. Jo Fletcher Books consistently puts out books that I want to read, and I enjoy reading. I was beyond thrilled to be put on their reviewer list. When the next email that landed from Jo Fletcher Books was asking if I wanted to review Traitor’s Blade, I almost passed out from an overload of excitement. Traitor’s Blade was a book that first caught my attention from one of my Books I’m Eyeing posts. I was incredibly disappointed to find out it didn’t surface in the USA until July. Oh, the pain! When I was offered this book to review, I think I probably replied with another ‘HELL YES’ in record time.

The book arrived, and it absolutely consumed me.

You see, I am kind of done with the swashbuckling adventures, witty repartees, busty women in taverns and men with gray morality doing something grand for their own predictable purpose. Those books are fun, but I’m kind of sick of them. On the surface, Traitor’s Blood looks very similar to that kind of thing, but I saw how many people were going nuts (in a good way) about the book so I knew there had to be something special about it.

And there is. Despite the fact that many of the elements are fairly similar to many other swashbuckling sword and sorcery adventures out there, Castell adds so much believability that nicely pairs this easy read, humorous book with some darker and much more thoughtful themes. In fact, one thing that Castell does quite well is the world building. There is a lot of history, both political and personal, in these pages The characters are never just surface level, and while the wry banter flies, there is always a purpose and a deeper message being hit on in the dialogue.

I think that’s what I loved about Traitor’s Blade so much. It’s incredibly fun, but it’s more than just a fun romp through someone’s imagination. There is so much thought that obviously went into the writing of this book, that I was just staggered. I learned a lot about fighting technique, so much, in fact, that I think the author himself must be some sort of impressive professional at the whole fighting-with-swords thing. The world was deft and layered, and by the time the book was over I felt a strange kinship with some of the cities, the countryside was alive, and the cultures, while foreign, were believable and nuanced.

Traitor’s Blade is a book you don’t want to start reading unless you have a lot of time to dedicate to it. You won’t want to put it down. Trust me on that.

The plot is also nuanced. There are twists and turns, some grand adventures, and nearly constant action. In the middle of this is our stalwart main character, Falcio, who is trying to do the right thing despite everything set against him. Castell does a great job at showing Falcio as more than just a good sword arm, but also a man with a good head on his shoulders, an intelligence that is needed in their current complex political situation(s). The secondary characters are each just as good as Falcio, though some of them seem to blend together and are less discernable than others. However, each personality works really well to give readers a full and more complex look into the plot as it is playing out.

Some aspects of the plot are pretty obvious, but some seem to unravel and unfold as the story progresses. This can be a little frustrating to some readers, but I enjoyed the suspense. I liked how Castell kept many aspects of the plot unfolding as I read. I felt like I was unwrapping the most incredible present the whole time I read the book. Traitor’s Blade is fast paced, dirty, full of action and complex relationships, twisting political climates, a quest, a group of close friends trying to do the right thing in the middle of so many bad things, and characters that you can really sympathize with. It is deep, funny, entertaining, and incredibly hard to put down.

Most of all, when I read this book, I felt like I was unwrapping a present the whole time. The book required almost no effort to enjoy. I just sank right in. I laughed and smiled, and felt the tension, and the emotional struggles the characters faced. I let go of myself and really sank into one intensely amazing, incredibly well realized world. Yes, this is a book for people who enjoy grimdark and swashbuckling adventures, but there’s also a delicious depth here that just worked for me on every single possible level. I’d almost hesitate to say it, but many of the political and deeper world building aspects of the book reminded me a bit of (hold your breath here) K.J. Parker (and we all know I think of him/her as the god of all things SFF, so you can imagine how hesitant I am to pair that name with any other author). Castell’s writing carried me away. This is a book that I wish I could experience the first time over and over again.



5/5 stars

7 Responses

  • High praise indeed, Sarah. Now you’ve got me book salivating. 🙂

  • I have the feeling this one is going to be plenty popular. It was one of the funner books I have read in recent memory. I am chomping at the bit for more.

    • I do, too. It’s a lot of fun, but it is also smart. I think Castell struck the balance just right.

  • Great review! I completely agree about being able to just sink right into the book and enjoy it. That’s not to say it’s a simple-minded book that requires no thought, it’s just so well written and laid out for the reader to let go and enjoy. I can’t wait for more!

    • It’s fun, but it is also smart, and the writing really makes it “easy access” for readers. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book in the series.

  • Definitely a fun novel. I was thrilled that I got to participate in a book tour for it, since it looked like I might not otherwise have gotten the chance to read it. But I’m now in the process of badgering my roommate to read it, and I’m very much looking forward to the next book in the series!

    This is also the reason why I started giggling when I saw a t-shirt that said, “Follow your dreams! Hard candy.” Achieve your goals by taking stimulants, yo!

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