“The first rule of the sword is – put the pointy end in the other man”
Traitor’s Blade is excellent. I picked this up as I’d seen it doing the rounds on Instagram and Goodreads and thought it sounded interesting. I am so glad I did.
We follow Falcio Val Mond in a first person narrative as he and his two best friends, Kest and Brasti, attempt to stay honourable in a world where the once illustrious Greatcoats are considered the worst kind of traitors, untrustworthy and barely worth the spit it takes to call them ‘tattercloaks’. All 150 of the Greatcoats disbanded after they let the Dukes of Tristia kill their king. Once revered as wandering magistrates who ensured the King’s law was adhered to across the land and are so well trained every one would think twice before challenging them, Falcio won’t allow his friends let their name down by stealing from the rich, even if they are in pretty dire straits. Five years after the death of his king, Falcio is still trying to fulfil his last request: to find the king’s Charoites.
My favourite aspect of this swashbuckling story is the friendship and banter between the three men. It’s immediately evident that they have been through so much together and know each other inside out. This makes their quips and banter personal and hilarious. They tease each other in ways only great friends can and their witty retorts contrast wonderfully with some of the bleaker aspects of their quest. The camaraderie is so realistic, the characters and their individual personalities almost jump from the page. The crudeness of their repartee works particularly well as they are no green boys looking for their first taste of adventure; firmly in their thirties they’ve endured a great deal of hardship and have surfaced firm friends who are ready to put the world to rights. All the characters are well developed but Falcio, Kest and Brasti are especially complex protagonists. Although we learn early on their strengths and weaknesses I know there’s still much more to their pasts that we are yet to discover. De Castell had me laughing out loud early on and didn’t let up throughout. I found the humour very refreshing as a high fantasy reader I rarely get a giggle out of the characters.
That’s not to say the plot is light-hearted and frivolous. This is definitely an adult novel, not only can the humour be quite salacious, the characters face their fair share of tragedy and danger. That the darker aspects sit so well alongside the humour helps make it feel more realistic and showcases the author’s skill. It is evident in the fantastic fight scenes that Sebastien De Castell know his stuff. His passion and knowledge of swordplay is tangible in the details. I wouldn’t say I generally enjoy military battles and war but I was never bored when they fought and was often on the edge of my seat. He knows exactly how long the scenes need to be so we don’t lose interest and every move feels natural and realistic. I never felt that the characters were invincible, despite knowing how extensive their training had been.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found the writing and characters incredibly immersive and I can’t wait to carry the series on. I’ve heard the second instalment is even better! I highly recommend Traitor’s Blade to anyone who enjoys fantasy fiction with well developed characters and engaging storylines.