After finishing a book like Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Words of Radiance’, it seems sort of unfair to start reading anything else straight away. The comparisons are going to be hard to avoid, and it’s hard to imagine that anything will be as good as what you’ve just read. Even as a reviewer with over 250 reviews under my belt, it is still hard to divorce myself from one book to the next.
With that in mind, I present to you ‘Traitor’s Blade’ by Sebastien de Castell, published in February of this year, and a complete and utter surprise.
I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of fantasy books which have allowed their technology to reach the gunpowder age, but Brian McClellan showed me that it can be done well. Traitor’s Blade does it well by virtue of not focusing on such technological advancements – guns exist, but they’re rare, slow to load, and useless in a close fight when someone has got a pair of rapiers.
And that’s the gist of the book – swords, honour, and unbelievable odds.
Our main character, Falcio, is the “first Cantor of the Greatcoats” and was responsible for the 150 men and women who would traverse the countryside of Tristia, doling out justice and punishment and hearing cases from the citizens. Except, something went wrong – the king who formed them, who they served loyally, was killed.
And they did nothing to stop it.
At Falcio’s orders.
There’s a lot of distaste for the Greatcoats, they’re hunted and ridiculed everywhere, and this creates an interesting environment for our heroes. Instead of being loved by everyone, or acting as antiheroes, they’re set against a world of antiheroes and villains while they try to make it through alive.
Sebastien de Castell is not a name I’ve heard of before, but he’s definitely one I want to keep an eye out for in the future. Great characters who fill the pages, a beautifully dirty world of hopelessness and hidden promise, and villains that crackle off the page. The flow of the story paced really well, especially with the way history was woven into the current events. When the main character was split from his supporting actors, I worried that we might lose something in the split – but the author handled it beautifully. I thought that the end was a little contrived, but I’m not sure whether that is the result of the author knowing how book 2 is going to progress or not – which in and of itself is not a great thing to rely on.
All in all, Traitor’s Blade was a fantastic read, and held up well despite that which had come before. Fun, fast paced, and with great characters that you'll love and hate, Sebastien de Castell had the chops to keep me entertained all the way through.
Review by Joshua S Hill
1 positive reader review(s) for Traitor's Blade
1 positive reader review(s) in total for the The Greatcoats series
Adam from USA
This book surprised me. I didn't know much about this series, nor the author, before starting it; I've only read passing comparisons to Dumas' "The Three Musketeers." The comparison is accurate, as the book revolves around Falcio, Kest, and Brasti, three swashbuckling heroes that try and uphold The King's Law, even though their King is dead, and most of the world blames them for it. Their honor stripped, they now live in a lawless society where most of the world curses their name, and they can only find meager guard or mercenary jobs. They're clinging to a shred of hope that was bestowed upon them by their King before he was slain by the enemy Dukes, but after years of empty searching, their morale is understandably low. The story picks up during what seems like a simple guard job that very quickly goes off the rails. Our heroes are framed and on the run, which sets off a chain of events that spans an impressive amount of locations for such a short, fast-moving book. Villains are everywhere in this lawless society, which makes every day seem a bit worse than the one before. It's impressive how deep the trouble continues to sink Falcio and his companions. This leads me into discussing some of the more impressive traits of this story: the pacing, which is wonderfully fast and exciting; the vividly-detailed swordplay, which is a mainstay throughout the adventure; and the quick, witty humor and dialogue that recalls Nicholas Eames and Scott Lynch. There is magic in this world, and it is used sparingly. There's also guns, but they are the early versions of which need lots of time for reloading. If I had any gripes, I might admit that the ending felt a bit rushed. There were several major events that seemed to get packed into very few pages, with a good portion of the 'how' and 'why' glossed over. I'll reserve judgment on de Castell's choice of what to share when I read further volumes: I get a sense that he has a greater purpose in mind, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how this very accessible, extremely fun adventure continues.
8/10 from 2 reviews