by Sebastien de Castell
Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Goodreads
Plot Summary:With swashbuckling action that recall Dumas' Three Musketeers Sebastien de Castell has created a dynamic new fantasy series. In Traitor's Blade a disgraced swordsman struggles to redeem himself by protecting a young girl caught in the web of a royal conspiracy.
The King is dead, the Greatcoats have been disbanded, and Falcio Val Mond and his fellow magistrates Kest and Brasti have been reduced to working as bodyguards for a nobleman who refuses to pay them. Things could be worse, of course. Their employer could be lying dead on the floor while they are forced to watch the killer plant evidence framing them for the murder. Oh wait, that's exactly what's happening.
Now a royal conspiracy is about to unfold in the most corrupt city in the world. A carefully orchestrated series of murders that began with the overthrow of an idealistic young king will end with the death of an orphaned girl and the ruin of everything that Falcio, Kest, and Brasti have fought for. But if the trio want to foil the conspiracy, save the girl, and reunite the Greatcoats, they'll have to do it with nothing but the tattered coats on their backs and the swords in their hands, because these days every noble is a tyrant, every knight is a thug, and the only thing you can really trust is a traitor's blade.
Review:I am absolutely in love with this book. This fast-paced adventure fantasy was extremely hard to put down because there were twists and turns up, down and sideways. Some I did see coming, but others surprised me and hit me very hard. This book is intense, inspiring, thrilling and funny. It's not often I see so much humor in a fantasy novel that can get very grim.
I believe the biggest and best part of the appeal in this book for me is the sense of hope in humanity. The very best and the very worst of humanity is shown, but the indomitable spirit of mankind in the face of oppression is so inspiring. The worst needed to be shown, to understand how powerful it is when people fight for what's right. Even when it might seem hopeless. The world in this novel has a bleak outlook - especially since the narrative takes place some time after the kind and idealistic King Paelis has died for his attempts to reform the politics of the land, but it's wonderful to see Falcio, Kest and Brasti impart their strength to other people through their actions.
The Three Musketeers was briefly mentioned in the synopsis, and while I think it is a good comparison in terms of the action and Falcio, Kest and Brasti are all excellent fighters who work together fluidly as a team, there is much more to them individually than fighting companions - they are not perfect and interestingly they are not even perfect friends. These characters are a perfect complement when it comes to fighting skills, but their beliefs can be somewhat at odds. Fortunately, their banter makes for fun humorous moments despite the tension that can come up between them and then it's easy to see why they remain together. I found these men and their friendship to be very believable and it made them fantastic characters to carry the story.
However, Falcio is the leader and the main character, and the depth to him because of his tragic past and his need to atone and live up to the principles he holds dear was very moving. There are many satisfying moments in this book when the reader sees how capable Falcio is as a fighter and how accomplished in his understanding of people; he's also very intelligent and cunning and I think it would be easy to make a character like this too idealized, but Falcio is flawed and damaged which makes him fascinatingly multi-faceted.
Flashbacks are an important part of the narrative - through them we see what happened in Falcio's past and the origin of the Greatcoats. I was very impressed with how the flashbacks were worked into the story. The flashbacks supported the main story perfectly and just enough was given to keep creating all of these intensely, emotional moments - because the flashback would give some information that enhanced the present-day story. While the reader is concerned with Falcio and his men's attempts to complete their mission, we come to gradually understand the tragedy that led up to the present and the revelations are deeply poignant.
This book is a wonderful and exciting journey. The only hitch in the story for me was towards the end when a couple things seemed too easily resolved. But it was a very minor issue for me because this story offers an intelligent examination on our humanity that I found very profound at times especially when it was juxtaposed against truly awful situations. Don't worry though, there's lots of swashbuckling action, wit and dark humor to counter the bleakness and the possibility of excessive sentimentalism. (I did find myself tearing up many times anyways.) I loved most everything about this book, it was a practically perfect read for me.
I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review.
I was able to interview the author, Sebastien de Castell, about Traitor's Blade and am super excited for everyone to read it! The interview goes up tomorrow, but for now I highly recommend checking out Tabitha's blog to read her awesome and fun interview with the author!