Saturday, 13 December 2014

Traitor's Blade - Sebastian de Castell

Quite a few people have likened this to "Dumas meets Abercrombie" but I'd say it's closer to "Dumas meets Gemmell" - though I'm not sure which is a bigger compliment.

Basically, its a gritty fantasy Three Musketeers (there are even three main characters) following heroes who were once Greatcoaks, basically travelling magistrates-come-swordmasters who dispensed the king's justice in the corrupt dukedoms.

For some reason the cover reminds me of the videogame Dragon Age. 

That was in the past. Now the Musketeers Greatcoats are reviled as traitors, cowards who let their king die. Distrusted by the avaricious, grasping usurper Dukes, they live as sell-swords - and when the story begins, they have just been framed for murder.  The novel follows the leader of the Greatcoats, Falcio val Monde, both in the current timeline, and in telling the story of how the Greatcoats came to be.

The story had witty swashbuckler-style banter, and Joe Abercrombie-style quotable lines:

"The first rule of  the sword - put the pointy end in the other man"

It's fantasy, but magic doesn't play a major role.  There's some sorts of paralysing powers used by ninja-style assassins, fae horses (which I did find a bit jarring) and the odd bit of prophecy. I was a bit annoyed by said magic horse, the healing prostitute/nun. Some of the young noblewomen were a bit precocious and a torturer started speaking like Tarzan. But in a book where 6 to 1 swordfights are the norm, I might be being a bit picky.  But there are demented evil villainesses, transcended sword saints, nude female assassins, duplicitous villains, fisticuffs and, of course, swashbuckling. With rapiers. Lots of it.

This book is fun. Whilst there are sad and dark moments, it's fun without being silly. Fun in the style of Retribution Falls.  The best debut novel I've read since Name of the Wind or the Musashi coming-of-age story Child of Vengeance.  If you'd like a more modern Three Musketeers, this Is the droid book you've been waiting for.

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