Review Take Two: Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell

Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Title: Traitor's Blade
Author: Sebastien de Castell
Genre: fantasy, awesomeness
Series: Greatcoats #1
Pages: 370
Published: March 6 2014
Source: received for review from publisher
Rating: 4.5/5

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…

Immediately upon finishing this fun, exciting, original book, I thought, "More! Encore! It can't be over already!" For me, one of the great hallmarks for any fantasy novel is never wanting it to end. And that was exactly my reaction for Sebastien de Castell's debut novel Traitor's Blade; I was utterly unwilling to end my time with his creations, notably Falcio, Brasti, and Kest. It's the kind of story that grips you right from the first chapter and never lets your attention wander. It's involving and swashbuckling, filled with history and fresh worldbuilding. Boasting great characters with creative personal arcs, fantastic writing and more this is a solid foundation for de Castell to build his series.

Now it's obvious that I had a great time in this world, and a lot of that is down to the characters themselves. Falcio val Mond is the main main character but he is complemented (and sometimes challenged) by his two sidekicks, the enigmatic Kest and the cocky Brasti. They're a trio on the run and the camaraderie and charisma of the trio is undeniable. I connected the most with narrator Falcio, but that doesn't mean his compatriots aren't well-defined, or explored in their own time. They might not get the same amount of time at the forefront of the story as Falcio does being the first-person narrator, but they're all equal legs of this main character tripod. They're all connected by virtue of being outcast Greatcoats but to spoil their personal history would be a disservice to the novel.

Fantasy is known for being dark and depressing (especially if you go in for the GRRM/Joe Abercrombie brand of it) but de Castell is able to inject humor, warmth, and wit into his characters and story without sacrificing authenticity. They're complicated, complex, and unique people with many facets to their personalities.  Danielle noticed the same thing in her review, and it's those flashes of light that help make both Falcio and Traitor's Blade so damn good. Sebastien de Castell is able to pull off both the darker moments and the levity of each character with equal ease. It's an impressive feat for a first novel, but the characters carry their various ghosts without totally losing sight of why they became Greatcoats in the first place. All in all, it's a cast characterized with skill and subtlety. 

There were a couple scenes that didn't fit as well within the story for me as a reader. Danielle's explanation of why the handling of Falcio's wife doesn't sit well with a feminst audience is perfect and I couldn't agree more. Women are more (and should be shown as more) than props to motivate a male character. That particular trope is more than unfortunate and is largely why this wasn't a 5 star read for me. The temple sex scene was similarly ill-used and just unnecessary for the plot. It doesn't seem to fit with either Falcio himself or the narrative arc of the story. 

Traitor's Blade is a fantastic introduction to the author, this world, and the characters themselves. Often a fantasy novel will focus too closely on one aspect, to the detriment of others. Not so here; de Castell's debut is fresh, creative, and just plain fun to read. It left me eager for the continuation of the story and impatient for when that sure-to-be-stellar sequel will release. If you're a fan of complicated and original fantasy, you can't go wrong picking up the first novel in the Greatcoats' series.


1 comment:

  1. I have got to make some time for this. This sounds fantastic!


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