Monday, July 7, 2014

Review: Traitor's Blade

Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell
Greatcoats #1
Published March 6th 2014 by Penguin

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…
*An ARC was provided by Penguin Canada in exchange for an honest review*

I knew I needed to read Traitor's Blade the moment I read the blurb for it.  The Greatcoats and their travelling justice league (with swords!) were already intriguing enough to me before factoring in the loss of their King - by beheading no less and the rampant corruption that has now taken hold and scattered the remaining Greatcoats across the world.  I've always been a fan of a good underdog story and with the odds stacked so overwhelmingly against them, the Greatcoats, their quest for justice and their need to fulfil their dead King's dream were just what I needed.

Traitor's Blade grabs your attention from the get-go and only tightens it's grip as the story progresses. The story is told from the perspective of Falcio val Mond, the first Cantor and leader of the Greatcoats....or what's left of them.  In truth, Falcio travels with his two best friends and fellow Greatcoats, Kest & Brasti. Their world, all they knew, and all they were taught to fight for has fallen apart around them but still they remain loyal to the King's dying wish, and to each other, unlike many of the other, now disbanded Greatcoats, who have turned to less noble pursuits following the King's death.  Whatever shred of hope that Falcio still clings to is what guides him to trying to honor the King's dying wish; and to continue to fight for what is right.

I think that what sets Traitor's Blade apart is the engaging writing style.  While the story is told exclusively from Falcio's point-of-view, the narrative alternates from present day to snippets of the past.  We are treated to Falcio's happier times with his wife, to his unfortunate meeting with King Paelis and even to how the Greatcoats were actually formed.  The switch between present and past was exceedingly well done on every count; never confusing in any way.  Sharing these integral parts of the Greatcoat's past with the reader added depth, not just to the characters but to the plot at hand. It allowed the story to grow while creating a nice sense of mystery and intrigue. This book very much reads like a film playing itself out in your mind.  The narrative and the dialogue are both lively, the pacing is tight and the plot itself is layered and elaborate, although it seemed to overreach a bit, if only on a select few occasions. 

Character-wise, I thought Traitor's Blade was especially interesting.  The protagonist, Falcio is a nice mixture of the traditional hero, but he's also extremely flawed.  He makes mistakes, he's prone to bouts of madness and he sometimes picks fights for no reason.  I found his character to be quite realistic and extremely well-rounded.  He's a hero you can root for, but he's also a man who's been through hell and back, and he's been shaped by his experiences.  His two closest friends, traveling companions and fellow Greatcoats Kest & Brasti are equally real, both having their own sets of quirks and a unique temperament to match. They joked with each other, fought with one another but they always stood together when it counted. Their friendship reminded me of The Three Musketeers, and the fact that there was sword-fighting and heroics abound definitely helped with that impression... but despite that, this was still a wholly original story and set of characters.

Traitor's Blade is an adult adventure tale with real substance that's dark, gritty, thrilling and humorous all at once. Author Sebastien de Castell seems especially gifted at writing fight/scenes. They're complex without ever becoming weighed-down and you can picture every move clearly, which makes it all the more thrilling! Aside from the slightly over-extended plot, my only other minor issue was with a certain figure of speech that the characters tended to express on occasion.  It was a bit off-putting because they tended to be both overly-hyphenated and long.  We'd have a character exclaiming to a certain saint responsible for let's say, the ocean and they'd call her 'Saint-Maria-that-watches-over-sailors'. I don't mind made up words and expressions, so long as they aren't distracting.  Luckily the style was used less and less as the story went on.  It wasn't a big deal or anything, but I could have done without it.  The bottom line is that Traitor's Blade is a solid read and a very exciting start to a new series.  I can't wait to see where the story goes from here!

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

16 comments:

  1. I gave it the same rating, I really enjoyed it and you really pointed out a lot of the great parts of this book. I loved the characters but also the action and sword fighting :)

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    1. Thanks so much Kelsey! I agree with you, the action and sword fighting were amazing too. They were explained simply but you could easily imagine every complex battle unfolding right before your eyes :D

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  2. Traior's Blade sounds deliciously chevaleresque! And I love stories like that, especially when the present has some flash-backs so that I can figure out why the character(s) act the way they do today, and I also think it's an awesome way to show us what's up, rather than telling us :)
    Great review, Micheline, I'm adding this one to my TBR.
    Happy reading!

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

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    1. Oh it was Lexxie and I do too! The flash-backs were especially insightful and really gave an extra dimension to the story! And I agree ^^ I'm all for showing instead of telling :) Glad to hear it hun, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!!

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  3. Added this one to the TBR! I consider you my fantasy expert, so since you enjoyed this, I'm feeling good about my odds of liking it, too. :D I also love imperfect heroes, and Falcio sounds just like my type. Thanks for putting this on my reading radar!

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    1. Wow, I'm flattered hehe :D The fantasy element in this one are on the lighter side of things though. There's talk of magic and we do get to see some magic at work, but none of the MC have any magic to speak of...yet. Magic does get used on a few of them though ;-) Falcio was a breath of fresh air for me, heroic but not as prone to the usual tropes as heroes often are. I hope you end up enjoying this one as much as I did Lee!!

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  4. I'm really glad you liked it! I was totally intrigued by it and could not put it down at all! I agree with awesomely done fights and a gripping story, and the jumping between past and present was best one I've read so far! Not confusing at all as you said!
    I didn't mind the saints either because it was a unique and fun thing, like a quirk of the book. :)
    Definitely excited for more. :D

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    1. Same here, I never wanted to put it down! The fights were so easy to visualize, even with some technical lingo thrown in there I had no problem imagining it all play out :D The plot was addictive and I found the jumping back and forth between present and past to make it even more so! I think the saints thing would have bothered me more if it had been overused. They were just a bit too long and hyphenated for my liking...but I didn't really mind them either, because like you said, it was different :) Hopefully we both get our hands on the sequel asap!!

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  5. Glad you liked it so much! This kind of book is actually one of my least read genres, so I should really think about starting up with some!

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    1. Thanks Danielle :) If you do happen to pick this one up I hope you love it!!

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  6. I love how captivating this was for you, I like a book that sucks you in immediately! And I'm a fan of flawed characters :)

    Mands @ The Bookish Manicurist

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    1. I am too Mands, it makes a nice change from the usual perfect hero! And this one definitely got my attention straight away and kept it throughout :D Thanks for stopping by hun xxx

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  7. Never even heard of this one! Probably because it's adult, because otherwise it's definitely up my alley! I've just finished reading (and enjoying) The Queen of the Tearling, which also featured a group of loyal knights and court intrigue and questing - and I LOVE that kind of stuff!! So yeah, thanks for introducing me to something that I wouldn't have ever come across otherwise! Sure, it doesn't sound perfect in every way, but I think I would enjoy this one, too. Very thoughtful review!

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    1. haha probably, but it does have some YA crossover appeal - and only a few 'adult' scenes, and they are quite mild :) I'm also a big fan of knights, questing and court intrigue (and kind of jealous that you've read Queen of the Tearling!) but yeah, if ever you do venture into adult reads and decide to check this one out, I hope you'll enjoy it too! Thanks love ♥

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  8. I am in love with this review. You did SUCH an amazing job explaining the great things about this book!!!!! And I totally agree with you about ALL of them! I just can't quite get over Convenient Plot Devices in the ending, and the sort of haphazard plot. I'M SO SAD WHY CAN'T I JUST UNEQUIVOCALLY LOVE IT WHYYYY.

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    1. Awww thanks Nikki ♥ But don't feel bad, we can't all love ALL the same books in exactly the same way! If it makes you feel better, I didn't unequivocally love this book either, otherwise it would have gotten ALL THE STARS ;-) Most of the same things that bothered you bothered me as well but I think for me the awesome just overshadowed the rest a bit more.

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