Title: The Traitor’s Game
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Page Numbers: 405
Source ISBN: 1338045377
Publisher: Scholastic Inc. (February 27, 2018)
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
Rating: 4/5 Stars
“Nothing is as it seems in the kingdom of Antora. Kestra Dallisor has spent three years in exile in the Lava Fields, but that won’t stop her from being drawn back into her father’s palace politics. He’s the right hand man of the cruel king, Lord Endrick, which makes Kestra a valuable bargaining chip. A group of rebels knows this all too well — and they snatch Kestra from her carriage as she reluctantly travels home.
The kidnappers want her to retrieve the lost Olden Blade, the only object that can destroy the immortal king, but Kestra is not the obedient captive they expected. Simon, one of her kidnappers, will have his hands full as Kestra tries to foil their plot, by force, cunning, or any means necessary. As motives shift and secrets emerge, both will have to decide what — and who — it is they’re fighting for.
Jennifer A. Nielsen introduces us to an unforgettable new heroine in this epic tale of treachery and intrigue, love and deceit.”
This novel was one of my most highly anticipated of 2018’s releases and I’m so thrilled to be a part of the blog tour to celebrate it’s release! Scholastic was kind enough to send me a copy for review so I wanted to share my thoughts with all of you!
This novel is packed with the classic elements of a great fantasy tale – mysterious family secrets, unknown family bloodlines, a prophecy depicting the future of a nation of people, an evil overlord taking power by force and an epic battle to find the one thing that could save them all. If you love fantasy that mixes in magical elements into the everyday world, you will love this story.
Antora is a place that is filled with secret magical beings, capable of manipulating elements depending on the level of their specific power and abilities. Lord Endrick is an evil ruler who is determined to eradicate all of those with magic in order to keep it all for himself. This story in many ways reminded me of the dynamic we see throughout the Grishaverse when it comes to siphoning the powers of the Grisha, each gifted with magic that falls within different categories. Ironically enough, much of what takes away from this novel is the same thing that, for me, took away from the story in Bardugo’s novels — the romance.
Nielsen has an incredibly captivating story that is filled with mysteries and twists that will keep readers on the edge as they discover how the prophecy will be fulfilled and who can wield the Olden Blade to save Antora. This content is where the novel shines, as Nielsen has woven characters throughout the novel giving small tidbits of information scattered throughout the story that ultimately come together for the large reveal at the end that will have readers quickly turning the pages for more. For me, what takes away from this portion of the novel is the way in which our romance develops between our main characters.
Romantic sub-plots have come to be second nature in epic fantasy tales but they can sometimes distract from the overall feel of the novel, in my opinion. Our main characters shared a traumatic childhood past, only to grow to hate one another as adults. Though it is clear from the beginning that they dislike each other, it takes a total of 3 seconds for our male hero to begin questioning his feelings for Kestra. Much of this is done through an internal dialogue that aims to be sarcastic and quippy, but in my opinion comes across as predictable and a bit corny. In many ways, the internal questioning of feelings from Simon and Kestra follow a dialogue style that isn’t consistent with the rest of the novel and made it difficult to look past. It was actually very difficult to make it through the first 100 pages of the story because so much of the content focused on their conflicting feelings with one another while not revealing much content.
After that, the writing seems to find itself again and readers are less distracted by the romantic sub-plot and are catapulted into a dangerous game of secrets, lies and betrayal. The second half of the novel totally changed my outlook on the book and guaranteed that I’ll pursue reading the second installment. Characters like Darrow and Gerald enhanced the story for me and helped me to invest in the overarching goal of saving Antora from Lord Endrick. What I appreciate is that even though we know Lord Endrick is bad, it is still unclear what path Kestra will take in order to save the people of Antora. Divided into three sub-groups who all have different beliefs of the world, Kestra is faced with finding not only her path, but her place among this world and her new responsibilities.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and I was excited to see it take hold of me after while. It’s a relatively quick read and I think fantasy lovers of the Grisha world will find this to be a captivating new land to discover and explore.