The King is dead, the Greatcoats have been disbanded, and Falcio Val Mond and his fellow magistrates Kest and Brasti have been reduced to working as bodyguards for a nobleman who refuses to pay them. Things could be worse, of course. Their employer could be lying dead on the floor while they are forced to watch the killer plant evidence framing them for the murder. Oh wait, that’s exactly what’s happening…
Now a royal conspiracy is about to unfold in the most corrupt city in the world. A carefully orchestrated series of murders that began with the overthrow of an idealistic young king will end with the death of an orphaned girl and the ruin of everything that Falcio, Kest, and Brasti have fought for. But if the trio want to foil the conspiracy, save the girl, and reunite the Greatcoats, they’ll have to do it with nothing but the tattered coats on their backs and the swords in their hands, because these days every noble is a tyrant, every knight is a thug, and the only thing you can really trust is a traitor’s blade.
“When you’re fighting a crowd, it’s good to shout potentially threatening things like “Crossbows!” or “Fire!” or “Giant Flying Cat!” every once in a while.”
This quote is a good lead in to the tone of this entire book. Whether in dire circumstances, or just normal conversation, our three main characters were always witty, funny, and really took the edge off of a world that was very bleak.
We follow the first person perspective of Falcio Val Mond throughout the entire book. I know some people really don’t like first person narration, but when it is done well I find it very enjoyable and possibly even preferable to third person. You get to know the character in a deep and intimate way that you don’t often get with a third person perspective.
Through Falcio’s eyes we get to know the world and the people in it. Falcio was First Cantor of the Greatcoats, the leader of the King’s most loyal soldiers. Although the King has been killed by the hand of the treacherous Dukes of the realm, Falcio is still doing his best to serve his king and serve the realm in the name of freedom and justice. Along with his best friends and also former Greatcoats, Kest and Brasti, they go about the country trying to fulfill their King’s final request.
Even though we only get Falcio’s perspective, our trio of Greatcoats have a lot of personality to go around. Falcio is the leader. Kest and Brasti look to him ultimately to make decisions. He is the strategist and the optimist. A man with a tragic past that drives him to be the most avid believer in the principles of justice and freedom that the King so strongly wanted the Greatcoats to uphold. Kest is pragmatic, serious, and deadly with a blade. Utterly loyal and selfless, you don’t want to mess with Kest. And then there is swaggering Brasti. Brasti is a jokester, playboy, and master of the bow. The chemistry between these three Greatcoats was one of the best parts of the book and I look forward to seeing more of that as the story progresses.
The narrative was action packed. At the beginning of the book Falcio, Kest, and Brasti are framed for murder and have to go on the run and it never lets up from there. The action scenes were very well written and there was always a sense that our characters were in imminent danger. Nobody felt safe to get to the end of the book and I loved that.
I also really enjoyed the themes of never losing hope, humor, loyalty, and justice throughout this story that is so bleak at times. This book sets out to show that even when the world seems at its darkest, there is always a little light.
The city of Rijou and the time spent there was incredible. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the atmosphere that Sebastien De Castell brought to the table when he created that city, its current political system, and especially a particular “holiday” that they celebrate yearly had me on the edge of my seat constantly. This was a large portion of the book and by far my favorite part. I never knew what was going to happen next and I couldn’t stop myself from turning to the next page.
There were a few villains in this one, but the best villain by far was the Duchess of Hervor. She gave me a “some (wo)men just want to watch the world burn” type of vibe. I hated her so much throughout this book even though she didn’t get a ton of page time. I am hoping throughout the rest of the series that the other villians can be a little more developed.
I had a hard time connecting to the big picture story in this one. Maybe that is a weakness of the first person narration, but I was so involved in Falcio and company’s current problems and predicaments that I honestly didn’t find myself caring too much about the state of the rest of the country. To be fair, I think the world is about to expand a lot more and the “big picture” story will get much more page time in the next three books.
All that to say I am so glad I finally got around to reading Traitor’s Blade. It is an action packed, witty, character focused story and I am so excited to see where it goes next in Knight’s Shadow.