Published: January 30th 2014 by Gollancz
Format: Paperback, 624 pages
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Loyalty costs money. Betrayal, on the other hand, is free.
When the Emperor is taken hostage, the Red Knight and his men find their services in high demand - and themselves surrounded by enemies. The country is in revolt, the capital city is besieged and any victory will be hard won. But the Red Knight has a plan.
The question is, can he negotiate the political, magical, real and romantic battlefields at the same time - especially since he intends to be victorious on them all?
The Red Knight and his company have left Lissen Carak – which is still reeling from the war against the Wild – and are travelling to Liviapolis for their next commission: the Emperor of Morea has hired them for a small job and offered his daughter, the princess, as payment. But the Company soon find themselves fighting to save the empire from the Emperor’s traitorous cousin who has taken the Emperor prisoner, leaving the princess to style herself Empress and seize control.
I’ve really enjoyed this book, but I think that readers who struggled with The Red Knight probably won’t enjoy it. The Fell Sword is everything The Red Knight is but on a grander scale. Again there are several points of view, many battle scene, and political machinations galore. I also think readers would benefit immensely from reacquainting themselves with the characters and the plot so far. For example, I read the last hundred or so pages of The Red Knight again before starting this book, which I think contributed greatly to my enjoyment of the story.
Multiple story lines are woven together to create a magical story in The Fell Sword. Sometimes it’s not clear how these stories are relevant, but Cameron does a great job in tying everything together and showing us that he has thought of everything! Aside from the Red Knight and Amicia, who are natural favourites, I liked the passages from the point of view of Ghause Muriens, the wife of the Earl of the Westwall in Ticondaga Castle, and the Queen of Albin, who both have lots of political and magical power. I also loved seeing Amicia hold her own against Ghause, who terrifies me.
Amongst the Red Knight’s company, I liked Sauce’s storyline (I laughed so hard at her making eyes at Count Zac), and Ser Michael’s (a wedding in the midst of a disaster, how cute!). All our other favourites including Bad Tom, Ser Aclaeus, Toby, and Gelfred are also prominent, as is the Red Knight’s brother. However, I am confused about Ser Gavin, because in my copy of The Red Knight, his name is Ser Gawin, and I can’t figure out why his name was changed!
The plot of The Fell Sword is a lot like the first book. The slow pace of the story borders on glacial, and the attention to detail can become tedious. As with the other book, it rewards patience and eventually an amazing story unfurls – much grander than readers would have suspected. This series isn’t about monarchies and mercenaries: this is story about ancient Powers and secret pacts that will change the landscape of this world irrevocably. We’ve only been given a glimpse of the scale of the series, but I think it’s going to be amazing!
I was again impressed by the amount of detail Cameron puts into the story. Every piece of armour that’s donned or bent or forged is lovingly described, battle tactics are inspired by history, and the political and economic decisions characters make in the book feel real. This is not surprising since Miles Cameron has been revealed to be the pen-name of acclaimed historical fiction writer Christian Cameron.
The magic system in this world, called hermeticism, is also worthy of praise. Magicians have access to their power as potentia – literally the potential to affect change – and fabricate their spells in a memory palace and then transfer it to the real world. A magician’s power depends on both the raw power (potentia) they have and the quality of their memory palace, and a memory palace is a reflection of a person’s soul. It’s really cool, I’m doing a good job of explaining how it all works!
The Red Knight impressed me in this sequel. He’s still blasphemous and pompous, but he’s tempered slightly for being dragged into the political arena earlier than he’d planned, and having fallen in deep like with someone unattainable. I’ve also seen that he can be caring and passionate, which helped me like him a lot more in this book.
My last note is to do with the editing of this book. Like The Red Knight, The Fell Sword is plagued with many spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. It’s huge word count and page length really shouldn’t excuse it from prier proof reading and line editing, and it surprises me that the folk at Gollancz have released both of Cameron’s book with so many errors.
The Fell Sword is a great sequel to Cameron’s fantasy début The Red Knight, expanding the world and delving deeper into its history, introducing us to new characters and giving us the tools to understand our favourites better, farewelling a few characters, and most importantly, giving a glimpse into the grand scale of the five book Traitor Son cycle. It’s a read that will be enjoyed by readers who like their epic fantasy languid and complex but I’ll reiterate that a complete or partial re-read of the first book is necessary to enjoy this one.