Published: March 6th 2014 by Jo Fletcher Books
Format: ARC, 384 pages
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Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and 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…
I have decided that I am joining the Greatcoats.
I haven’t loved a book this much in ages! Reminiscent of The Three Musketeers, humour, swordplay, intrigue and a hint of magic are carefully balanced in this fun and exciting début. The book is highly entertaining, full of adventure and lots of laughs.
Traitor’s Blade is set in a medieval-esque world. The Greatcoats were magistrates, they travelled the land and settle disputes according to the King’s Law, but they were disbanded when the Dukes rose up against the King and put his head on a pike. Falcio and the other 143 Greatcoats are now considered traitor’s to the King, and they are hated and mistrusted everywhere they go. They can’t find work, and many have apparently turned to brigandry.
The Greatcoats were the King’s men, but the Dukes also have their own Knights. Most fantasy stories combine the two ideas, but the de Castell makes an important distinction between the two: the Knights put Honour above all else, while the Greatcoats prize Justice. This means that the Knights will kill and rape and steal from others if their masters demand it, but the Greatcoats will fight dirty and betray people if it means that justice will be upheld. I found the difference between the two ideologies interesting.
Our protagonist is Falcio val Mond – funny, very talkative, and a great leader. He’s by no means perfect, and is plagued by bad things he’s done in the past and thoughts of the people he’s was unable to save. Falcio was the First Cantor of the Greatcoats – their leader – and now he’s reduced to guarding merchants to make his way. He’s idealistic and still hopes that he can live out the King’s dreams and bring the Greatcoats back. While Falcio is an extremely talented fighter, he prefers to talk himself out of trouble, which I like because violence should be a last resort, rather than the first thing someone turns to. But when he does pull out his rapier or knives, he’s an incredible fighter, and deadly to those around him!
An interesting aspect of Falcio’s character is that he blacks out during fights with alarming regularity. He genuinely doesn’t know what happens and is sometimes surprised to find his opponent dead or gravely injured. Falcio’s a beserker and certain things trigger him, leading to devastating harm.
Since female characters traditionally get a bad wrap in fantasy novels, I’d like to point out that many of the women have interesting and varied roles in Traitor’s Blade. Although some of them are evil, they are all well developed and well written. I love how many of the female characters are crucial to certain aspects of the plot, instead of being used as puppets or being around to look pretty and sleep with the male characters.
I love the writing style of this book because it works on so many levels. It is told in first person, and alternates between showing Falcio in the present and Falcio’s past. The jumps aren’t random, however, and are used cleverly to give the readers information as they need it. Usually the flashbacks happen when Falcio himself is musing on the past, which allows the scenes from the past to be integrated naturally without breaking the rhythm of the narrative.
Plotting is superb, of a quality that is not often seen in a début. Everything ties together brilliantly. Sometimes things happen a little too easily – the trio get out of scrapes a tiny bit too easily (and each time it’s a more daring, more unlikely series of events). The story concludes amazingly – I think that there were enough clues throughout and I guessed most of it, but a few revelations blew my mind. It’s also set up the next book really well and I’m sure many readers will desperately want it in their hands!
There’s also quite a bit of action throughout the novel, featuring rapiers and swords, bows and arrows, throwing knives, and one memorable time with hand-to-hand combat without any weapons. I think the action is perfectly balanced by the rest of the story, and I never felt that the characters were getting into scrapes too often just for the author to indulge in the fight-scenes.
Traitor’s Blade is not to be missed. It might even be the best début of 2014. The mesmerising plot and imaginative world, not to mention the awesome characters, will entertain even the most discerning of readers. I’m really looking forward to the next one!