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A Sorcerer's Treason: Book One of the Isavalta Trilogy Hardcover – 2 Apr 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 525 pages
  • Publisher: Voyager (2 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007113994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007113996
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.6 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,071,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Already an accomplished SF novelist, Sarah Zettell's debut fantasy, Sorcerer's Treason, shows her to be equally adept in lands of myth and magic.

Bridget Lederele is Keeper of the Light on Sand Island, shunned by the mainland following the birth and death of her bastard child and rumours of her psychic visions. Now she keeps the lighthouse blazing, warning sailors away from the rocky dangers of the lake. Her life is thrown into turmoil when she rescues the tattooed stranger Kalami from the wreckage of his boat and tells her she is needed in another world to defeat the sorceress step-daughter of the Empress Dowager Medeoan. Seeing the chance for a new start, Bridget accepts Kalami's offer but the world she finds waiting for her is unlike anything she has been promised.

Zettell's first fantasy novel is a triumph of story-telling, taking fairytale and folklore and dressing it in lies, half-truths and dark magic. All the characters are powerfully drawn, especially Bridget, a strong and attractive heroine, willing to face her responsibilities as much as the aged Dowager is willing to run from hers, if only because she thinks it the right thing to do. This is a world populated by characters who are flawed to the extreme, not totally evil, but driven by motivations they know to be wrong. It's a world of grey areas and twisted truths that thanks to Zettell's superb plotting only gradually revels themselves. The magic system is rich and detailed with truth spells woven into warm herb bread and transportation spells cast out nothing but air itself. Sorcerer's Treason is a magnificent fantasy novel, showcasing just how good this genre can be. Rich, compelling and exciting, this could be the best fantasy debut in years and is certainly as good as fantasy gets. --Jonathan Weir


In this romantic, beguiling tale of intrigue and enchantment, Sarah Zettel draws on fairytale and folklore to create a wonderfully rich new world in which magic lives and no one is quite what they seem.

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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By N. Clarke on 6 April 2004
Format: Paperback
I confess I wasn't overly enthused when this book reached the top of my to-read pile; in my experience, fantasy authors promoted as Exciting New Voices all too frequently turn out to be More Of The Same. By _A Sorceror's Treason_, however, I was more than pleasantly surprised - I was completely hooked.
On the surface, the tale is a simple one, in genre terms: a lonely woman meets a mysterious man from another world, who takes her home and enlists her in a battle against his evil political opponents. Yet Zettel's novel - in both its striking plot twists and its overall structure - swiftly distances itself from cliche.
Bridget Lederle is a memorable character in a vividly-drawn world even before she enters Zettel's fantasy realm. While most novels of this type treat the protagonist's home world as little more than a prelude, a painted backdrop to the real story, here Bridget's earlier life is given welcome emphasis. The close-knit nineteenth-century fishing community in which Bridget lives and works as a lighthouse keeper is portrayed with intriguing detail, its supporting characters fully-rounded individuals. Bridget herself is conflicted, complex and intelligent, resilient but worn out with old emotional pain; as much of an outsider in the world where she grew up as she will be in the one she travels to.
Zettel's fantasy world, meanwhile, does not pale beside its historical counterpart. Isavalta is a fine blend of cultural elements that seasoned fantasy readers will find less familiar, incorporating elements of eastern European, Middle Eastern and Asian folktales and history. Most notable are the fabulous fox spirits, and there is a real sense of old powers with unfathomable schemes at work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Nov. 2003
Format: Paperback
Over a number of years of reading fantasy, I have in general become more critical and less accepting of the majority of offerings. Zettel's book is an exception: although perhaps the plot is not 100% fresh, it is well constructed, and has a heroine of some interest as a character. In terms of the character and also of the two-worlds intertwined type of approach, there were reminders of Stephen Donaldson's "Thomas Convenant" series. Zettel neatly presents the reader with a mystery (which is mostly but not fully resolved at the end of this book), and proceeds to maintain the tension of unknowing throughout many twists of the plot, making the book quite compulsive reading. I look forward to the second helping (despite it being a prequel).
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Format: Paperback
What I like most about this book - series, in fact - is the unusual setting. So many fantasy books are set in the same sort of western European, pseudo-medieval setting. These books begin in late nineteenth-century America but the majority of the story takes place in an alternate world made up of cultures drawn from Russian, Indian and Chinese history. Immediately the world feels richer, more colourful and infinitely more interesting than many books I've read in recent years.

Furthermore, some elements of real-world mythology are woven into the plot. Our characters - Bridget Lederle, the woman who didn't know she was a sorceress, and the sorcerers Kalami and Sakra - periodically visit The Land of Death and Spirit, a sort of alternate plane ruled by the Great Powers. Baba Yaga is one of these, in her chicken-legged house, and fox-spirits play an important role in the story. The dangers and trickiness of this place are well presented; it's easy to appreciate that in this world, magic is not something which everyone would love to have, but in fact deeply dangerous.

The characters are excellent. Bridget herself borders on a touch of cliche - she's unwittingly the world's most powerful sorceress, if only she knew how to use it - but she's complex enough to seem real. It's easy to identify with Empress Ananda, supposedly the most powerful woman in the empire of Isavalta but rendered powerless and afraid. But I was most impressed with the dowager empress, Medeoan, a villain without meaning to be. She's one of the most complicated and interesting characters I've come across in some time.

The tangle of politics, magic and individual desires makes for an intriguing tale and there are some good twists in the plot. This book still deserves a place among my top favourite fantasy novels.
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Format: Paperback
Sorcerers and Sorceresses. Witches and animal spirits. The world of the dead, the world of the living. Zombie like creatures. All are in this well-written, first volume of the Isavalla trilogy.

Nothing in this book is at it seems. A lighthouse keeper as a heroine is an unusual choice, but it provides a platform for Bridget to meet the Sorcerer Kalami. Unlike the other sailors she rescues, Kalami presents a dilemma for Bridget. No matter what she does, he's stays by her side until she agrees to go back to his world with him. A world seeped in lies, deceptions, and disguises, which has everyone - the dowager Empress, the Empress, the Emperor, the guards, the handmaidens/servants - wrapped up so tightly that it takes Bridget's appearance to disrupt life.

There is little more I can say on the story without giving any of this well constructed novel. Initially I was rather confused about all the alliances and plots. It seemed every time I turned the page another layer threw itself on the already quite high mountain of mystery. And yet, by the end I understood it all very well.

The characters certainly aren't 2D. It took a while until I really connected with Bridget, I preferred the Empress Ananda. What Ananda goes through tweaked my emotions, something that didn't happen for Bridget until at least halfway through. I did get there eventually; it felt like her character suddenly blossomed out and became the type of protagonist I adore reading about; quick thinking and strong willed. There isn't a character I didn't care for; the secondary characters are fleshed out and either had me cheering them on or praying they met disasters.

There were moments when I nearly put the book down: certain things were very easy for Bridget to do, there wasn't always a challenge for her. I'm glad I stuck it out and kept going for the action picks up just as her character matures.
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