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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"The Traitor's Daughter" by Paula Brandon (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Order The Traitor's Daughter HERE

INTRODUCTION: The blurb below raised my interest quite a lot in The Traitor's Daughter who is a series and authorial debut that has just been published in early October. After reading the available sample from Amazon/Kindle to see if the book's style matches my taste, I got and immediately read it.

"On the Veiled Isles, ominous signs are apparent to those with the talent to read them. The polarity of magic is wavering at its source, heralding a vast upheaval poised to alter the very balance of nature. Blissfully unaware of the cataclysmic events to come, Jianna Belandor, the beautiful, privileged daughter of a powerful Faerlonnish overlord, has only one concern: the journey to meet her prospective husband. But revolution is stirring as her own conquered people rise up against their oppressors, and Jianna is kidnapped and held captive at a rebel stronghold, insurance against what are perceived as her father’s crimes.

The resistance movement opens Jianna’s eyes―and her heart. Despite her belief in her father’s innocence, she is fascinated by the bold and charming nomadic physician and rebel sympathizer, Falaste Rione—who offers Jianna her only sanctuary in a cold and calculating web of intrigue. As plague and chaos grip the land, Jianna is pushed to the limits of her courage and resourcefulness, while virulent enemies discover that alliance is their only hope to save the human race."

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Based on the blurb, I have expected "The Traitor's Daughter" to be a romantic fantasy with emotional scenes, exuberance, some darkness and the other usual characteristics of that subgenre. To my surprise, the novel turned out to be a pretty traditional secondary world fantasy set in a city-states milieu. The novel has a detached - and quite dark on occasion - style that worked very well and made it the best traditional fantasy debut of the year for me so far after lots of misfires and ok'ish but nothing spectacular such in 2011.

The blurb above gives some idea about the content though things are subtler in some ways. Beside Jianna - the privileged daughter of an aristocratic father - there are two more main characters whose pov's we also follow. Magnifico Aureste Belandor who for twenty years since the conquest of Faerlorn by neighboring Taerlezzi, sided with the occupiers of his city state in order to preserve his fortune and power, while in the process losing the respect of his peers and the love of his fiancee who married his most hated rival, Magnifico Vinz Corvestri, a magician on his own and head of the foremost enemy house of the Belandors for both political and personal reasons.

So 20 years later, Aureste who married a daughter of the minor nobility after he lost his fiancee to his rival, has only Jianna to cherish, while also respecting his younger magician brother Innesq who is crippled but can practice his "art", technically forbidden by the brutal conquerors.

This background sets the two main threads of the novel. As the blurb implies there is the adventure of Jianna who needs to travel to another city state to make a match worthy of her class and fortune - as no Faerlornnish Magnifico would marry a son of his house to the daughter of the despised "chief kneeser", while even Aureste would not countenance the idea of marrying her to a noble of the brutal occupiers Taerlezzi.

But also there is the constant plotting of Aureste and Vinz to undo one another, one using his connections to the hated enemy governor, the other his link to the feared resistance. And besides all the big picture and ominous signs loom, there is a mysterious automaton, a reptilian servant race - the Sishmindri - and the pitch perfect atmosphere of causal brutality, poverty and opulence, etc..

As the title character, Jianna is quite interesting - smart and occasionally resourceful, but naive and petulant too - and I think the author did a great job in both her initial portrait and in her later evolution, when things start happening...

I also liked Aureste - though seemingly despicable for his many misdeeds, seeing the action from his pov, reminds one that everyone is a hero of his own story, while in many ways said actions just mark him as a person of his times and class and his devotion to Jianna is unmistakable as is his respect for Innesq.

Vinz Corvestri is less well portrayed for now, mainly because he has less pages, and while outwardly he is the "virtuous patriot" relatively impoverished by his "principles" - after all he still lives in an opulent mansion and orders his servants and wife around - and in his actions we see the essential similarity between him and Aureste, while the author does not really take sides which is another thing I liked about the novel.

The world building is just starting in this novel and I liked a lot what I saw but of course there is much more to be understood, there is a lot of action and some magic, while the ending is at a very good point with some little twists too.

I also liked a lot the author' style - detached, a little cynical, a little ironical, and with no compromises to our 21st century way of seeing things. The world of the novel reminds one of the Italian city states of the 15th century with the Borgias and the Medicis and their little brutal wars, assassinations, feuds, poverty and glamor and the writing style matches that impression very well.

Overall "The Traitor's Daughter" (A+/A++) is the best traditional fantasy debut of 2011 so far and its sequel "The Ruined City" has become a highly awaited fantasy of early 2012.


Bibliotropic said...

I'm glad to hear that this book is so good! I just got a copy of it today, and now I'm dying for the time to read it!


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