Traitor’s Blade is the first volume of Sebastien de Castell’s new grimdark fantasy series. His first novel, it’s a smashing debut. I can understand why it was shortlisted for the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for best first fantasy novel. It’s the one I’m pulling for.
Here’s the setup. Falcio Val Mond grew up dreaming of the legendary Greatcoats and being a hero. If you look up “idealist” in the dictionary, his picture would be there. But the Greatcoats were disbanded decades ago.
Then a combination tragedy and a new king lead to Falcio becoming the first of the new Greatcoats. This king wants to reign in the excesses of the Dukes. If you look up the word “evil” in the dictionary, their pictures will be there. (When I called this novel a grimdark fantasy, I wasn’t kidding.) The Dukes rebel. The King’s last command is for the Greatcoats to stand down and not resist the rebellion. They just need to find the king’s Charoites. He calls them a type of jewel, but that’s all he’ll say. Finding them will not be easy when Falcio has no idea where to start looking or even what they are.
The novel opens five years after the king’s death. Falcio and two of his companions from the now disgraced Greatcoats are bodyguards for a major caravan master when he is murdered and they are framed for the murder. For some reason, the city guard don’t believe a naked woman killed the man in such a brutal manner.
Falcio and his companions manage to escape by joining a different caravan. It’s only after they’ve sign ed a contract they discover the caravan is lead accompanied by the daughter of the duchess who lead the rebellion against the late king and the man in charge of the security force is one of the generals who lead the rebel army. It’s going to be a long journey.
Falcio has no idea how long or how much his devotion to justice for all people will be tested. It won’t be long before he is charged with the task of protecting an orphan girl whose death has been ordered by the one of the dukes.
Traitor’s Blade has been compared to Abercrombie’s work, and I think that’s a fair comparison. Falio Val Mond is a wonderfully unreliable narrator. It’s not that he is lying to himself or the reader so much as he’s a deeply wounded man emotionally and spiritually. Those wounds color his perspectives. He’s got a dry, sardonic wit that leavens much of the darkness that lies at the heart of this novel.
I picked up this one while I was in the middle of a different novel. I had intended to only read a portion, basically enough to decide between this book and the one I’d been reading as to which would get my vote for the Morningstar Award. I haven’t picked the other book up since I started reading this one. Not that the other book is bad (it’s actually quite good) but this one sucked me in. I’ll buying the second novel in this series, Knight’s Shadow, in hardcover.