5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Vine Customer Review of Free Product
With Sebastien de Castell, I'm thinking I found my latest must-read author. Were Alexandre Dumas still alive I've no doubt there'd be a quote from him lauding the hell out of this book. Traitor's Blade is de Castell's jaunty tip of the hat to him what wrote The Three Musketeers. But given the current climate de Castell doesn't hesitate to inject a measure of political intrigue à la Game of Thrones, only done from a street-level perspective. This had better be the first in an ongoing series or I am going to kick a puppy.
Fancy a history lesson? Cool. See, the nation of Tristia cannot catch a break, rocked as it's been by a century of chaos and corruption. Once upon a time (or maybe five years ago), the Greatcoats (identified by their protective trademark leather coats) roamed the realm, them doughty, sword-fighting magistrates what administered justice in the King's name, each one well-versed in the martial, diplomatic, and judicial arts. But then the ambitious Dukes deposed the king, in fact, planted his head on a pike above his very own castle. And there went the Greatcoats, disbanded and disgraced and universally vituperated. And here's our point-of-view character, Falcio val Mond, First Cantor of the Greatcoats, him who ordered his elite corps of 144 men and women to stand down whilst their king was getting that very close shave.
The book opens five years hence. Falcio and his two best friends and fellow Greatcoats, Kest and Brasti, are barely eking out a livelihood by hiring out as lowly armed escorts. Mocked as one of the Trattari ("traitors") and as a filthy "tatter-coat," Falcio has spent the past five years trying to fulfill the geas with which the late king had burdened him, but so far no luck. And when the lord they'd been safeguarding brutally expires, whom but on these three tatter-coats should suspicion fall? There go Falcio, Kest, and Brasti, scarpering.
I think it's Sebastien de Castell's debut novel, and that calls for a bout of my being gobsmacked. Guy's a born storyteller. I was immediately drawn to his characters and their interplay. I note whiffs of Dumas, of Steven Brust, of Fritz Leiber, and, yep, of Dashiell Hammett. Traitor's Blade is swashbuckling fantasy at its page-flipping best, but there's an edge to it, a film noir element to it. The writer has got a sense of humor, of style. I dig the snappy bromantic banter amongst our three Greatcoats. And Falcio, holy crap, what a wonderful narrative voice. Falcio val Mond is a fantastic, full-blooded character, valorous and deeply melancholy and (the best thing about him) so very crafty. In all of Tristia, Falcio isn't the best blade (that's Kest) or the best archer (that's Brasti). But Falcio is the most dangerous of the lot because he's so damn freakin' cunning. (He's also really funny.) I dunno, there's something about him that reminds me of Vlad Taltos and of Corwin. He's so badass.
But he's propelled by his tragic past, details of which we learn in intermittent flashback chapters that, thankfully, don't come off as info dumps. De Castell packs plenty of big surprises and jaw-dropping reveals. He offsets the blithe repartee with a series of truly dark moments. If you've a certain delicate sensibility, be aware that the humor occasionally strays into the risqué. But I don't see that as a fault. If I were to nitpick I could say that the narrative does suffer a wee bit courtesy of the Greatcoats' perhaps too omniscient benefactor and a villain that occasionally is caught monologuing.
I'll repeat: Falcio is so badass. De Castell is consistent with his many stagings of the spectacular sword play. (It shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that the writer used to choreograph sword fights for historical recreations.) And yet what's so gratifying isn't that Falcio is so lively with a blade but that he's able to trick his adversaries silly time and again. I'm dying to tell you a for instance, but it's so much more fun if you read and find out for yourself. Okay, maybe my favorite bit of trickeration happens when Falcio is cornered by two frightening ninja-type assassins...
If you're in a mood for a rousing, gritty swashbuckler... if you would make the acquaintance of three reviled (yet charming) outcasts who really have each other's back... if you don't mind opening a sack of startlements... then I - and probably Alexandre Dumas - wholeheartedly recommend Traitor's Blade.
But exactly how did Falcio beat Kest in that duel that one time?
I didn't mean it about the puppy.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Tabitha @ Not Yet Read
- Published on Amazon.com
Let's start this off with a little Jedi mind trick hypnotic suggestions shall we?
Traitor's Blade is the book you are looking for, you will read Traitor's Blade. *waves book in front of your face*
Not convinced? Alright - then I'll just lay it all out straight for you. This book had pretty much everything I could possibly want. I was hooked from page 3 for crying out loud. How you might ask? The humor, the swashbuckling, the humor WHILE swashbuckling. As if you needed a definition here's one anyway.
swash·buck·ler (swshbklr, swôsh-) n. 1. A flamboyant swordsman or adventurer.
Watch my feet now, see how I dance?
There was a constant flow from one scene to the next such that I never had a chance to get even remotely bored. If you're an action oriented reader like I am this will tickle you pink. Don't get me wrong there is still plenty of room that was given over to world building and character development and we even saw flashbacks into the past. The story is told from the perspective of Falcio Val Mond, the First Cantor of the Greatcoats (i.e. leader of the disbanded King's magistrates that previously used to uphold the law throughout the kingdom). So when we get these flashbacks they are of his past, how he came to be a Greatcoat as well as his interactions with his now deceased king. I can freely admit that I fell more than a little bit in love with Falcio. Indeed I even told my husband one night while reading in bed and petting the gorgeous blood red cover "I think I've fallen in love with somebody else...and he has a longer sword than yours...and pointy-er too." To which he promptly looked at me with a long suffering smirk and said "You're so messed up."
But the humor - let me share with you the scene by by page 3 had me completely roped in.
`Let what go, pray tell?' he said. `The fact that you promised me the life of a hero when you tricked me into joining the Greatcoats and instead I find myself impoverished, reviled and forced to take lowly bodyguard work for traveling merchants? Or is it the fact that we're sitting here listening to our gracious benefactor - and I use the term loosely since he has yet to pay us a measly black copper - but that aside, we're listening to him screw some woman for - what? The fifth time since supper? How does that fat slob even keep up? I mean-'
`Could be herbs,' Kest interrupted, stretching his muscles out again with the casual grace of a dancer.
`And what would the so-called "greatest swordsman in the world" know about herbs?'
`An apothecary sold me a concoction a few years ago, supposed to keep your sword-arm strong even when you're half-dead. I used it fighting off half a dozen assassins who we're trying to kill a witness.'
`And did it work?' I asked.
Kest shrugged. `Couldn't really tell. There were only six of them, after all, so it wasn't much of a test. I did have a substantial erection the whole time though.' Pg 2 - 3
But you didn't get just one of these amazing characters - oh no my sweets we get three of them. It reminded me somewhat of The Three Musketeers - which I have loved my whole life ever since I was a child and would prance around the house terrorizing the dog and my sisters with my antics wielding a long wooden spoon or an offending turkey baster - what I'm not ashamed! The way these three characters, Falcio, Kest and Brasti interacted will immediately reel you in. They just can't seem to stop snarking at each other and it left me with a perpetual smirk on my face.
I'm sure I dreamed of adventure, sword fighting, magic wielding fantastical creatures even when I was in the womb. So not only did I get this amazing wry humor from this trio but there was a wealth of action, swordplay and intrigue, heart break and heroism. There wasn't as much magic as I had originally anticipated but there was just enough to still lend an edge of the fantastical to it and I didn't feel like it needed anything more than was there. While this is sword and sorcery fiction, it's lighter on the sorcery and heavy on the sword. But even you die hard magic fans won't mind even a bit. To put it mildly - *hums* this book was made for me and you!
I got this, let me tell you about this one time...
Throughout Traitor's Blade I would see hilarious little bits thrown in that I'm sure might be part of any adventurer's life but here they are given to us in a style and method fitting to the style of the book. These snippets detail just how crazy the lives of the Greatcoats can be. Each time I came across them, which were pretty frequent, they served to hook me deeper and deeper into the story and in love with this author's storytelling method.
The three of us invented `punch-pull-slap' some time ago. One of the things you discover after you've been wounded enough times is that the body only really keeps track of one source of pain at a time. So, for example, if your tooth hurts and someone pokes you in the stomach, your body momentarily forgets about the tooth.
So the way this is supposed to work is like this: Brasti punches me in the face, Kest pulls the arrow out of my leg and then Brasti slaps me so hard my brain never has time to register the bolt and therefore I don't scream at the top of my lungs.
I screamed at the top of my lungs. -pg 30
One second please - I sense a fangirl moment coming on! I feel like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music right now and literally want to sing at the top of my lungs, from a mountaintop, just how much I loved this book. Or wait picture me as a big opera singer shaking the rafters of a roof down upon the heads of the audience. Ok maybe I'm carrying on too much. I have a tendency to go overboard when I really enjoyed a book. Back to why it was so great...
Not only was it humorous but Traitor's Blade was heart-wrenching. As I moved through it gobbling up pages like a crazed junkie on a total book high - all of a sudden the author showed me that he could not only be darkly funny but he could twist and wrench my heart and poke me with ouchie ouchie things beside.
But how did he DO that? Why did do that!? To taste the elixir of my tears!? He was pulling out all the stops. Excellent world building, evil nobility - I gotta give it to him he can write some nasty villains. The setting is a kingdom that has five years past lost their king. The only good king in over a hundred years who cared for his people down to the lowest serf. But the nobles would have none of that. I doubt there was one good noble depicted in this book. The depths of depravity that these people went to just curdles your stomach. I'm a firm believer in if it can be imagined it can happen. Which makes me cringe all the more. Don't be scared though this acts as the perfect counter balance to the rest of the narrative.
So, then when my heart strings and the power of my righteous anger were done being toyed with, at any given time another marvelous thing would be thrown at me like assassins or fey horses or swordplay used to have conversation, or or or FISTICUFFS!! That's right baby you haven't seen fisticuffs til you've seen these fisticuffs. In fact I'd love to pepper this entire review to bursting with quotes so that you can't help but be tempted to read it but then that might spoil your fun. And that wouldn't be very nice of me. So to sum up...
Everything and the kitchen sink!
Swordfighting, archery (come on who doesn't love a good bit of archery?) assassins, heroes in disgrace, humor, berserker mode, amazing world building, fey horses, hidden jewels (wink wink, nudge nudge), heart break, revenge, fisticuffs, ass kickery, snark, Saints with names like "Saint Zaghev-who-sings-for-tears" and "Saint Caveil-whose-blade-cuts-water, the bloody-faced Saint of Swords" and so much more! Alright I'll stop now...
So do you want to learn the first rule of the sword that Traitor's Blade will teach you?
`The first rule of the sword is -'
`-put the pointy end into the other man.' - pg 25
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Gary K. McCormick
- Published on Amazon.com
Vine Customer Review of Free Product
"Traitor's Blade" tells a tale that is at once both familiar and exotic. Comparisons to "The Three Musketeers" will rise quickly to the reader's mind, but this is "Musketeers" seen through a prism of fantasy & imagination.
Tristia is a land once governed by a just king, but the greedy, rapacious Dukes who rule over the various duchys which make up the country murdered the king, who had no (known) heir, and these lesser nobles now lord it over their individual lands with fists of iron. Under the king, Paelis, a corp of elite lawkeepers, the Greatcoats, meted out justice, upholding the King's Law by the use of diplomacy, wisdom--and when necessary the point of a sword. The Greatcoats were disbanded and scattered across the country after the King's overthrow, scorned as traitors to the ruling Dukes and called "trattari" or "tatter cloaks".
In "Traitor's Blade", three of the greatest, and most loyal, of the Greatcloaks -- Brasti, a great archer, "The King's Arrow"; Kest, the most skilled swordsman in the land, "The King's Blade"; and Falcio, former leader of the Greatcoats, "The King's Heart", are on a quest to find a hidden treasure, left behind by the king, which will help subjugate the Dukes, reunite the country under the King's Law, and bring peace to Tristia.
The settings, language, weapons, and customs in "Traitor's Blade" have a sense of the familiar about them, harkening to something along the lines of 15th to 16th Century Europe, but with a taste of magic and enough differences to keep the reader in mind of the fantastic setting of the tale. The story is complex without being confusing, with layers of plot and backstory that are revealed with very satisfying effect. The characters are well-drawn; the dialogue quick, witty, and often ribald. The author's descriptions of some of the skirmishes and duels in the story demonstrate a thorough knowledge of swordplay--fencing in the original, actual-fighting-with-swords sense, not the stylized-modern-competition sense.
I found a couple of minor nits to pick in his descriptions and depictions of archery in the story, but these could be attributed to the fictional setting of the tale. Crossbows are described as both slower to load and shorter in range than a bow--something which was not true in the Late Medieval Europe which the story's setting suggests--and if that were true, why bother with them? Also, Brasti's great bow is described as being a little under 6 feet in length, when the great English warbows that dominated the battlefields of Europe from the late 14th Century until well into the 15th Century were over 6 feet in length--longer than the men who drew them were tall. I own and shoot a replica warbow which draws at less than half the weight of the legendary yew warbows of the English archers, and it is 74" long!
These minor, and arguable, nits aside, "Traitor's Blade" is an immensely enjoyable story which carries the reader along on a fantastic ride--a tale of courage, devotion, greed, rapine, love, hate, innocence, and deception. Some minor incidences of resorting to weakish plot devices to move the story along--and one well-wrought, but unnecessary episode which contributes nothing to the story arc (at least in my estimation)--dull the polish on the story to a very minor extent (hence four, rather than five, stars), but this is a book that will satisfy the cravings of readers who relish tales of adventure in which stout (but interestingly flawed) heroes wield blades (and bows) in the cause of justice, with just a leavening of magic lifting the tale from the mundane into the fantastic.