Thursday, August 30, 2018

Dragon Award Finalist, Best Fantasy Novel: The Traitor God

An ad blocker will keep THIS picture link from showing... if you don't see the picture, here's a text link: The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston .

Preliminaries and Disclaimers. This is book #16  in my series of 2018 Dragon Award finalists, and is the 5th and LAST book in the category 'Best Fantasy Novel.' That's 3 out of 4 categories completed; I have two more Military Sci-Fi books to read and review to complete the not-quite-Herculean task I assigned myself.

This book was not available through my usual sources, but the author responded most kindly and promptly to my request for a review copy, for which I am grateful. In this picture, you can see in the background the reason that so one in Scotland grows rice: the land goes up and down, not side to side.
A Scotsman (not on a horse)

And speaking of pictures, this is only my opinion, BUT: I like the cover art. It's by a person who is so cool, my ordinary character set won't even get the name right. Using the American English character set, though, it's Jan Wessbecher, and you can check out the art for yourself if you like.

A review, sort of. Ten years ago, Edrin Walker made a solemn promise: first, {do something}; second, leave town and never come back; third, never talk to anyone about anything.  In exchange, his only friends in the world would live. As a post-script: "Oh, yeah: don't let the monsters kill ya, but for that you are on your own."

Leaving was rather a sad thing, what with having to start a new life without the friends he loved dearly; and because of the monsters, he had to keep on the run, so he couldn't settle down and make new friends. But not telling anybody anything?

That was easy: with respect to the bracketed 'do something' statement referenced up above, he had not a clue.  Evidently, someone had made partial amnesia part of the deal. 

He didn't COMPLETELY sever all ties, though; he and his best friend had arranged via magic to have a mental connection. It wasn't enough for real communication, but it did allow him a thin sense of companionship with his best friend Lynas, who remained in Setharis, the magic capital of the empire. And, as long as he has a sense of Lynas' well-being, Walker will continue to stay away and not talk.

Then, a bad thing happens. 

Just as he is about to move on down the road (down the sea, actually), nasty pirate people try to kill him; they DO kill other people; and they burn down the town of Ironport, where Walker has been lingering until his ship left.

In the midst of this, Lynas sends a series of frantic, high bandwidth messages: he is being hunted; he has been caught; he is being killed horribly; and then, inexplicably, his last message is of a scene when he and Walker were on the receiving end of a rather nasty schoolboy prank.

We discover later that the prank nearly cost them both their lives, and that this was what had cemented their friendship, all those long years ago.

Without entering into the land of spoilers, the rest of the book is a murderous magical mystery, with monsters, meanies, and memories, all making an appearance at the appropriate time.

Some minor commentary. I found that the scenery almost rose to the level of a character from time to time. For example, Walker rents a room, sleeps on the straw mattress, and wakes up in the morning itching, because the place is lice-infested. There are also numerous contrasts drawn between the squalor of the lower city, where the poor people live, and the clean, well-ordered streets of the upper city. This is particularly significant when Walker notices a decline in the maintenance of formerly prosperous areas. He also does a nice job of describing the filthy state of the water around the docks, and the pollution running through some of the waterways.

This is a perfect fit for this category; as I have mentioned before, I tend to avoid fantasy, so my opinion is that of an amateur, but I think this is well-done. Yes, magic IS used, BUT so are brains. It is as good a job of dragging out a reveal as anything I've seen anywhere. Perhaps it is easier to do that when the MC is cut off from part of his memories, but I don't think THAT should be a hindrance if you writing fantasy (or sufficiently advanced technology).

It's a good read, with strong characters exhibiting strength, self-sacrifice, and affection. I found it to be well worth my time, and I can recommend it as being well worth your investment; and, once again, I am compelled to say that if this one wins the Dragon Award, I would not be surprised.

Peace be on your household.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for such a lovely review, and I'm glad you enjoyed it! :)