Remember when I was reading The Name of the Wind, and I said usually the right book comes exactly when you need it? The same thing happened to me with Traitor’s Blade by Sebastian de Castell. I’d just come off a 2 day binge of the BBC’s Three Musketeers and felt like I needed more. Even though the new season started, one new episode was not enough to sate the hunger. It has been decades since I read The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, so I was about to crack that open and dive in when Shiri, my fellow pen-dueling musketeer said, “You need to read THIS book.” (For Shiri’s review of Traitor’s Blade, drop by the Last Chance Salon, and while you’re there have a listen to the podcast. It’ll be fun for you, I promise.)
Now, onto this book, which, like I said above, was exactly what I wanted to read at the precise time I wished to read it.
Falcio val Mond, the narrator and hero of this tale, has pretty much been through hell, not once, but twice. It’s more or less like he has a permanent cell there and they let him out from time to time to be further tortured by all of life’s little cruelties. The losses he’s suffered have filled him with a darkness that seems to rear its ugly head when he least expects, often bringing him back from battles in a stunned daze, blood still dripping from his hand as his enemy’s head still rocks gently on the earth at his feet.
The story begins in the middle of a rather boring job, Falcio and his fellow Greatcoats, Brasti and Kest, guarding a man they can barely stand. When they realize it sounds less like he’s rutting his female companion and more like he’s being murdered and snipped to bits, they bust in and become instantly embroiled in the dark plot that will carry them through the remainder of the story. Fleeing accusations of murder and thievery, Falcio, Brasti and Kest find themselves hired on to protect a caravan carrying a powerful woman to meet with her father.
Balancing present moments with memories of Falcio’s past, we learn early on that the Greatcoats (often referred to by the people as tattercloaks or trattori) were all given special missions by their king before the Dukes seized power, disbanded the Greatcoats and killed the king. It’s years since the king’s death, years of disgrace and distrust from the people, of the Dukes’ iron-fisted rule throughout the land, and though his best friends have grown weary of searching, Falcio refuses to give up on the last request of his friend and king.
This is a story about honor and friendship, about one man’s quest to find not just the answers to the king’s frustrating riddle, but the part of him that was lost when tragedy began smearing itself across his life like bloodied fingers. It delves dangerously into political topics that are still relative to the world we live in, as politicians rule the masses, taking for themselves and cutting down anyone else who dares to stand in their way.
Falcio is a witty storyteller, sometimes thoughtful in the most heartbreaking ways, and the banter between the three friends is reminiscent of the playful antics I have always loved about the Three Musketeers. de Castell drew me effortlessly into a tale I did not want to put down, even when I could no longer keep my eyes open while reading in bed at night. When I reached the end, I jumped for joy when I saw on de Castell’s twitter profile the second book, Knight’s Shadow, was scheduled for release in March. Conflicting Amazon information drove us to ask him when we could really expect it and he confirmed that it was, indeed, coming out in March… for UK readers, and then in June for those of us with the misfortune to call the United States home. *Insert dramatic wailing here* He says we could potentially blackmail the publisher, Quercus, into releasing earlier, but I’m having a little trouble digging up the necessary dirt for that level of extortion. If you, or anyone you know, has any information that could be used to potentially pry that book from Quercus’s hands earlier than June, I’m sure we could work something out. Help each other, you know, that sort of… thing.
I was going to rate this 4.5 out of 5 stars, but the fact that one of the scenes I was reading while on the elliptical actually brought tears to my eyes, it gets a full-fledged 5 stars from me! Highly recommended if you love adventure with a very light fantastic twist. Go forth, yon readers, and devour these words.