The Traitor’s Game is a strong and promising introduction to Jennifer A. Nielsen’s new series, that struggles to stand apart from the hundreds of books like it. The book tells the tale of the strong and rebellious Kestra Dallisor, the formerly exiled daughter of Sir Henry Dallisor, the chief counsel and right hand man to Antora’s ruthless ruler, Lord Endrick.
Kestra was exiled three years before the beginning of the book, for her own protection following a kidnapping. The book picks up with Kestra on her way back to her father, to see him for the first time in those three years. The plot begins quickly, with her carriage being attacked by the Corack, a group of rebels. Accompanied by two rebels, Kestra is forced to continue her journey home, and act as an agent for the Corack. Kestra and her two companions, Simon and Trina, are after a specific blade that is able to kill Lord Endrick, and if Kestra’s treachery is discovered, no matter that it is unwilling, her life would be at risk. The longer Kestra spends with Simon and Trina, and the more she learns the truth, the harder it is for her to determine where her loyalties truly lie.
While the narration alternated between Kestra and Simon, Kestra is undeniably the protagonist. Kestra is a likeable enough character. A young woman who defies society by being more likely found practicing with swords than sewing, Kestra is undoubtedly supposed to be a feminist icon. She seems to be a character who is written to demonstrate the fact that women don’t have to be passive, and can instead do anything men can do. This is a wonderful kind of character, however it seems as though this stock heroine can be found in every other book you pick up. Kestra, however rebellious, struggles to stand out against the throngs of other empowered literary women. Her bravery and attitude aren’t motivated by love and family, like Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, her personality isn’t delightfully and wickedly sharp like Calaena Sardothien of Throne of Glass, her intelligence isn’t spectacular and vital like Hermione Granger’s of Harry Potter. We are currently in a wonderful time where there is no shortage of strong, rebellious young women, and while she is enjoyable, Kestra has no true distinction from the rest.
My personal favorite relationships of Kestra’s are quickly abandoned after a few chapters. The bonds between Kestra and her driver and her handmaid are short-lived, and quickly replaced by Simon and Trina. These new relationships are interesting and dynamic, but also somewhat expected. Also expected is the distant and cold relationship between Kestra and her father. Henry Dallisor was everything you anticipated him to be, and whether or not that is an asset to the story will likely vary with each reader.
The other narrator of the story, Simon, is a fun character. He often finds himself with his hand full dealing with Kestra. The two characters points of view’s are mostly distinct, however they sometime bleed into one another, making their voices hard to distinguish. The romance between Simon and Kestra is entertaining, if not jarringly immediate.
As usual, the world building stood out to me. Nielsen created an in depth world with nuanced and layered relationships. It didn’t feel like the world started with the story, instead it felt as though it had a history. As she did with The False Prince, Nielsen created a political landscape that is intriguing and high stakes.
The story also moved at a good pace, nothing felt too rushed or too slow, finding a perfect medium. The characters developed at an even and believable pace, allowing the reader to truly learn who they are, and root for them.
The Traitor’s Game is an interesting and exciting book that will most likely appeal to those who have read Nielsen’s previous series, and are fans of hers. Despite any huge distinguishing factors that would set the book apart, it was largely enjoyable, and fun read that will draw you into the world and will have you invested in the outcome.
RATING: 4.25 OUT OF 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.