Greatcoats #1: Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

Traitors-Blade

Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, shares his thoughts on Traitor’s Blade, the debut medieval fantasy novel from Sebastien de Castell. Published by Jo Fletcher Books – it was released this year and is the first part in the Greatcoats series.

“If this isn’t your most anticipated debut novel of 2014, then you’re doing it wrong. Traitor’s Blade may well end up going down as one of the strongest first fantasy novels of recent times – it’s an absolute stunner that you can’t afford to miss.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

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…

Every so often as a book reviewer you stumble across a book that absolutely blows you away in terms of sheer quality. Brain McClellan and Brian Staveley and more have been relatively recent debut novelists and have really impressed with their first novels, but Sebastien de Castell absolutely steps up and knocks the ball out of the park with a stunning first novel in the Greatcloaks series from Jo Fletcher books, and instantly makes him a must watch author with his confident narrative that is a guaranteed place on many reader’s best of the year lists, even though we’re only in March.

Traitors-BladeThe book plants the reader in the head of Falcio, the first Cantor of the Greatcoats – an organisation that’s trained in fighting arts and uphold the law of the King. Once renowned as heroes, they’re now scattered and persecuted as traitors – having stood and watched whilst the Dukes took the kingdom, with their King’s head impaled on a spike. As you can imagine, the tables have turned – and the Greatcoats are far from what they once were.

The book itself is easily one of the most fun reads that I’ve had so far this year, and can claim that title as well as the bet debut novel. The book itself is a swashbuckling adventure romp, and will have the reader gripped to the page right the way through. There are clear hints of The Three Musketeers in the book itself – and there’s several instances of amusing witty banter throughout the book that works – not coming across as forced or out of place. The book shares more similarities with urban fantasies due to first person narrative with the short and to-the-point sentences rather than the long-winded often-third person structure that is a common theme in most epics.

If you’re not sold on the book already then it’s publisher –  Jo Fletcher Books should really sell it for you – it’s rare that you’ll go by the publisher over the author but Jo Fletcher have not put out a bad book yet – at least in my perspective. Tom Pollock’s Skyscraper Throne novels have been exceptional, as well as Stephanie Saulter’s Gemsigns. So far this is pretty much the only publisher that I’ve read that has a 100% track record with me as a reader – and almost anything that they put out will catch my interest regardless of the genre. Only a few other publishers can do that as well – Angry Robot and its imprint Strange Chemistry are two more. So whether this is your first Jo Fletcher book or you have read every title – one thing’s for sure, Traitor’s Blade manages to feel fresh and gripping despite having a relatively unoriginal premise.

Also, it’s rare that I point this out in a review, but how awesome is that cover? I didn’t even need to read the blurb before tearing into this book once it arrived, and it instantly stood out from the crowd of to be read books with its striking design. If I’d been browsing in a shop this would have definitely been an impulse buy – and it’s something that based on the sheer quality of the book I’m not looking like regretting any time soon.

The action is well written and there are a variety of fight scenes that don’t feel odd or cumbersome – running smoothly with the strong, page-turning pace of the rest that the rest of the novel provides. We get to see a superb level of plotting on display as well – something that quite a lot of debuts suffer with. The book also wraps up with a strong conclusion – and means that it will be a long wait for the next book, which based on the quality of this one – will certainly have readers coming back for more.

The characters are well developed, interesting and flawed. It’s no surprise that Falcio is the most memorable character of the lot – but there are a lot of other fleshed out characters as well. The book doesn’t fall into the trap of casting women in merely ‘damsel in distress’ roles either, and puts them in a variety of roles.

On the whole then, Traitor’s Blade is a stunning debut novel from Sebastian de Castell that has already guaranteed its place on the Best of 2014 lists and could possibly end up as the best debut novel of the whole year – it’s absolutely incredible stuff.

VERDICT: 5/5

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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