Joint Staff Review: Traitor’s Blade – Sebastien de Castell

traitors bladeReviewed by Michelle and Jim

This is the story of how Jim came to read Traitor’s Blade:

Michelle, after one chapter: Dude, this is basically Three Musketeers fanfiction!
Jim: Oh? Are there swords?
Michelle: Yes! And magic! Okay, that’s not very Three Musketeers, but fanfiction! And I know who’s who.
Jim: Yeah? Who’s Ara–
Michelle: Oh, no. You’re going to read it and then we’ll discuss.
Jim: *gets book that evening*

Traitor’s Blade summary from NoveList Plus:
“A royal conspiracy in a corrupt city forces three members of the disbanded Greatcoats to take action in order to stop the conspiracy, save a girl, and reunite the Greatcoats.”

To expand on that: A group of combat trained men and women responsible for upholding the king’s laws, the majority of the Greatcoats scattered across the country after the king’s death, but Falcio, Kest and Brasti travel together to carry out their king’s final orders. Long story short: They get into a lot of trouble.

Our favorite aspects of the novel revealed in non-spoilery fashion:

The really stand-out feature of this book for me was the sword fights (which there are a lot of). In a lot of sword-intensive books, the focus in a fight scene is on the participants as a whole, while the descriptions of their actions are kept at a minimum. In Traitor’s Blade, though, each fight is presented like a fencing problem (in fact, I’m pretty sure de Castell is a fencer). In each fight scene, Falcio (who narrates) describes his stance, the kinds of blocks and parries he uses, the angle of the sword, and all of it for his opponent(s). You may want to stand in a room and play out the fights (which I may have done… once or twice… I didn’t break anything though) with suitable tree branches standing in for the swords (or if you have swords that works too). You would think all that description would bog down the action but it really doesn’t. All it does is suck you even deeper into the story.

Oh, and the world de Castell creates is awesome, which is really important. If you can’t get absorbed in the place you can’t really buy into the story. The world of Traitor’s Blade swallowed me whole when I opened the book. It’s this medievalish-sort-of-dystopia of lands fallen into decay for lack of care. Forests have taken over once fertile lands. Teaming city-states are ruled by (psycho) tyrannical dukes in the absences of a central authority. Armed caravans travel the roads, trading from city to city. Deserts with hidden monetarists. Mountains covered in foul smelling flowers. You’d love the place even if the rest of the book wasn’t absolutely incredible.

Also there’s a map… a map!

You get a sense for it from the summary, but get one chapter in and you’ll see it’s glaringly-in-a-good-way obvious that Traitor’s Blade is de Castell’s homage to Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, and that right there put a big bold check mark in the ‘meant for me’ column of my reading list. (If my shoulders wouldn’t whine about it after a couple of hours, I’d probably leave the house hugging the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Dumas’ 700+ page novel to my chest.) And that is to say, one of the things I loved most about The Three Musketeers is present and accounted for in Traitor’s Blade: a bending but unbreakable friendship (bond, is the word) between brothers-in-arms.

Falcio, Kest and Brasti may not see eye-to-eye at every turn, they may bicker and tease and swipe at one another, but they unquestionably have each other’s backs when the chips are down (and they often are). It’s a win-win situation: the bickering and teasing is, for the most part, grin-inducing; and the having-each-other’s-backs, well, considering the number of fights these three provoke or stumble into, it’s a potent part of their characters, one that speaks volumes about the many years they spent protecting each other before the events of the novel were even a speck in destiny’s eye.

Jim is a World guy and I’m a Character girl: Traitor’s Blade delivers on both fronts.

Your favorite character was…?

Kest. I mean there’s the whole greatest swordsman in the whole world but really I liked the fact that he’s an extremely rich character but manages it without saying much. He’s very subtle.

Kest, also known as The Greatest Swordfighter In All The World. Also: Kest, the man who’d give Athos a run for his money in the category of driest interjections. There was only one character in the novel I wanted to know more and the most about, and that was Kest. Maybe it’s because de Castell is frugal with Kest details, dangling the best ones, incomplete, in front of the reader. Maybe it’s because Kest is as sharp and pointed as the blade he wields so skillfully, and a character who doesn’t prevaricate is refreshing, a standout. Maybe he’s just that awesome (he is).

Jim & Michelle, basically: More Kest. All the Kest. Kest is the best.

All together now!

Kest in the morning

Kest in the evening

Kest at supper time

Kest Kest Kest YAY!

[Michelle: Ah, that impromptu song was Jim’s doing. Blame him if it somehow gets stuck in your head.]

Falcio vs. Athos: Who wins?

Athos. I mean, while Falcio is talking Athos would be poking him full of holes.

Now, this is tough and I’m going to split hairs: If it’s a physical challenge, swordplay and the like, the two would probably be evenly matched. The outcome would be based on sheer luck. Falcio, surprisingly, might have the upper hand in the luck department, and there’s a good chance Athos would enter the fray already wounded, so…I’m going with Falcio. If it’s a strategical challenge, Athos. If it’s an exasperate them with feigned stupidity challenge, also Athos. If it’s a talent show (singing and dancing), well, they’d both likely make fools of themselves, so the real winner would be the viewing public. But even there I’d ultimately go with Falcio. That makes the count two for two and a draw.

Favorite quote:

“‘You’re doing it again, Falcio,’ Kest said quietly.
‘What’s that?’
‘Talking when you should be fighting.'”
[He does talk too much.]

“Kest was the first one to join us. I found him back in Luth, where I’d left him as the days of our childhood friendship had waned and we moved on to other companions.

‘Waiting for you,’ he answered when I asked what he was doing still forging swords in his father’s smithy. Before I could say anything further he put down the blade he was working on and pulled a pack down from the top shelf. ‘Well, let’s go,’ he said.”

Bonus: “I didn’t bother checking on Kest because–well, he’s Kest and that would just depress me.”

Check the NOBLE catalog for the availability of this title

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