Monday Review: Traitor’s Blade
I read this book in two sittings. 370 pages. Two sittings. It is that good.
This is what Dumas would be doing if he were around today and I feel confident in saying the master of the swashbuckling bromance (and that’s a compliment) would give Traitor’s Blade his fleur-de-lis of approval.
And… hold on to your hats here kids: there’s fourth wall breaking and not only did it not irk me, I actually liked it. That’s right. Me. Fourth Wall Curmudgeon. I didn’t just tolerate it, I actively participated.
Thing is, Falcio, the main protagonist and narrative voice, is a lot of fun to listen to and interact with. He’s got an interesting backstory, a quick wit, a hell of a sense of loyalty and honor, and, imagine this, he fucks up. A lot. He fucks up and he admits it. He even makes jokes about it. Falcio is one of those magnetic heroes, one who if you over or undershoot as an author is either a dull two by four or a pompous jackhole but, if like de Castell, you get just right is compelling and witty and perfectly human.
Kest and Brasti, the supporting crew of good guys, are each well defined as individuals and as part of the larger group of Greatcoats — the executed king’s traveling magistrates with pointy weapons. Each could have his own book or series and carry it absolutely without difficulty and yet fits in just as well in the ensemble bits of this book.
There’s some wibbly wobbly timey whimy stuff and it is flawlessly rendered; no confusion or needing to go back to figure out where I was; if it’s something you struggle with in your own writing, this would be a great primer to use and if it’s something you typically avoid in your reading, have at it, de Casell will change your mind. The magic fits nicely in to the world as well, just something that is rather than something that’s fussed over and explained ad nauseum. And something Falcio hates, a feeling he never fails to note and there expression thereof, which cracked me up each and every time.
If I had to pick a nit (yeah, I’m sticking with that) it would be the crafting of the female characters; they were far less dimensional than the men and they were all, to some extent, tropes: the plucky girl in need of a hero, a murderess, an evil duchess, a holy whore, and a crazy old seer. Female Greatcoats were mentioned several times throughout, but none of them showed up in any detail, not even in Falcio’s wanderings down memory lane. Kest reminds Falcio time and again that women are just as capable as fighters etc as men; again, none of those ladies makes an appearance. Women can hold duchies and sit upon the throne, but they are far fewer in number and they tend to either be villains to get deposed. This is definitely a man’s world, though I’m hoping de Castell will go more into depth as to why in the coming volumes.
A fast paced plot, crosses and double crosses and crosses back again, a heist, a mystery, honor, valor, pointy things, fencing lessons, blood, magic, and all things good. It’s been years (literally) since I laughed out loud on so many occasions with my face in a book and I’m very much looking forward to future installments.
Four and a half fingers on the hand of glory for this one, kids.