Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.
Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters. All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission.
But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…
So, this was both what I expected and totally unexpected. I wanted swashbuckling adventure, and while I did get some of that, this had a lot more grit and grim scenes than I was expecting. I think I was expecting more light-hearted adventure, but this worked for me too.
Falcio, our protagonist, is a good person who wants to do good things. Ever since he was young he dreamed of joining the Greatcoats, even when faced with the Greatcoats no longer existing. But eventually he settles down into an ordinary living and is content until life throws him one heck of a left hook and sends him on his journey to where we find him at the beginning of the story. And then once life gets settled again for him and he’s finally found a new purpose life throws him for a loop again. Falcio just can’t catch a break. So when we finally catch up with him at the beginning of the story he’s just a tad more cynical than he was in his youth. And yet, at the heart of things, he’s still a good person who wants to do good things and make the world a better place. He doesn’t want people to have to go through the same things he’s gone through. He believes in justice, even after the world has told him there is none. It’s this aspect of the story that gives the story a sense of hope, even when things get super grim, as they do at times.
I think one of the book’s strengths is its characters. Falcio is great but so are the other characters we meet along the way. The other greatcoats that are Falcio’s friends are awesome. They each have their own distinct personalities. I do wish we had gotten to know them just a little better, however. I also enjoyed some of the characters in the flashbacks, like the king that Falcio looks up to and is a friend. The king is young and idealistic but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, it’s the kind of thing that keeps hope alive. I also loved some of the characters introduced later in the book. The villains are very villain-y and there is this feeling that the bad people out number the good people, which could make you lose all sense of hope for good to triumph but the hope is always there, through Falcio and his friends.
The story is told in both the present day and through a series of flashbacks. We get to see what happened to make Falcio who he is–his friendships, his loves, his loyalty to the Greatcoats and their cause. I really enjoy this style of storytelling when it’s done well as it is here. It’s a great way to reveal a character’s backstory without having some long info-dump. It also gives us further insights into their motivations. That being said, it can be a bit jarring at times when a flashback starts in the middle of a high tension moment in present story, and this happens a few times throughout but it wasn’t much of an issue for me personally. My opinion is that these type of ‘scene cut aways’ are more effective in film than books, but it still works here once you get used to it. Overall though, I thought that writing and prose was pretty great.
The only real problem I had with this…well, there’s a bit of a Disposable Woman situation and so we get to experience a lot of sweet, sweet man pain. I guess this doesn’t bother me that much because I still really liked the book overall, but this is such a common trope and I do think it’s just a tad lazy. Then again, revenge and despair are great motivators… <shrug> Your mileage on this may vary.
Overall, I enjoyed Traitor’s Blade quite a bit. The story was revealed in an interesting way and the characters were pretty solid. Looking forward to the next one. 3.5 stars.