Sebastien de Castell’s Traitor’s Blade isn’t written in a linear style; the beginning of the novel is actually the lead up to the end of Falcio, Kest, and Brasti’s current story. The flashbacks incorporated throughout the novel help flesh out their pasts, relationships to each other, and how all the current pieces fit together to create an expertly tailored whole. The first chapter opens with the three former Greatcoats reduced to swords for hire for a rich trader who has the power to potentially redeem the Trattori’s (colloquial slur for the Greatcoats which means “tatter cloak") reputation by giving them the responsibility of protecting the roadways. When a mysterious young woman destroys their hopes, Falcio’s insistence on clinging to his dead king’s charge throws the three men into an adventure beyond their expectations.
While I enjoyed the balanced portrayal of Falcio and his compatriots as flawed and devoted men similar to the original group in Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, I adored how de Castell included strong women throughout his story. His fantasy Europe allows women to rise to power through the same channels as men, and Falcio mentions several female Greatcoats from his time serving as First Cantor. Women also have political power and play the “game of thrones” with devastating effectiveness in Tristia, and both the most pivotal character and most heinous villain in the book are female.
I don’t have detailed knowledge of sword fighting or hand-to-hand combat techniques, but the fight sequences throughout Traitor’s Blade flowed well and kept me interested. I don’t think that a single technique was repeated in the entire 300-plus pages, which fascinates me by itself. If you enjoy well-written sword play, you need to try this book just for the numerous descriptions!
My only small gripe with the novel is that I never entirely identified with Falcio. I sympathized with him, and I wondered how his story would progress, but I never fully lost myself in his world and point of view. I enjoyed my journey through the world, but it allowed me to escape to real life too easily.
If you love adventure, fantasy history, sword fights, nobility, and cutting and dark humor, Traitor’s Blade should be right up your alley! I agree that it’s in the same vein as The Three Musketeers with less unnecessary exposition (No one’s being paid by the page or the word here!), and it’s a fun romp. I hope to see de Castell continue Falcio’s quest down the road.
4.5 Tastes of the Hard Candy out of 5