Review – The Traitor’s Heir by Anna Thayer

Posted: June 27, 2014 in Fantasy
Tags: ,

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I was looking for some fantasy to read and ended up trying to decide between Jon Sprunk’s Blood and Iron or Anna Thayer’s The Traitor’s Heir. Both had an interesting synopsis and nice cover art (I know, never judge a book by its cover but we all do..). In the end I decided to give Thayer’s debut a go. Check out the blurb.

Like many from his village, young Eamon Goodhand dreamed of joining the Gauntlet, the army of the overlord Eldered. Now he is about to complete his training and swear his loyalty to Eldered and his commanders, the Hands, who uphold Eldered s tight control of the land.

Entering into the service of the Gauntlet, Eamon’s gifts, particularly his potent Sight, quickly become valuable to his superiors and he advances to the command rank at a speed that arouses the suspicions of fellow officers.

However, Eldered’s bloody rule, and Eamon s personal friendships, start to challenge the young soldier’s assumptions about what might be true, and worthy of service. And soon Eamon must conceal a fatal secret: he is sworn to both Eldered and to Hughan, the rightful king of the land. Yet he may not forswear the vows he has uttered in all good faith so however he serves, his name will be traitor.

As tensions and military skirmishes increase, Eamon finds himself trusted by both his masters. How can he possibly maintain his integrity, act justly to his fellow officers of the Gauntlet, and act on behalf of all the warring people of the land?

Whilst my tastes run a little to the darker side when it comes to sci-fi and fantasy, I’m glad I read The Traitor’s Heir . Anna Thayer writes and lectures on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and the influence is there to see. Her debut is a classical fantasy as good battles evil, characterised respectively by the guerrilla force of the true King and the dominating and ruling power of the Master. Like Tolkien and Lewis, a number of similar allegories can be construed in Thayer’s work: the good/King is concerned with freedom, honour and truth whilst the evil/Master is all about power, lust and servitude.

Though the novel may trace a classical lineage back to the likes of Tolkien, it is by no means an imitation. Thayer has created a well constructed world with an interesting magical system. Her writing is, maybe, less direct than some of the big names in fantasy right now but her story is no less gripping. Populated with a number of well defined characters, it is through the protagonist, the eponymous Traitor’s Heir that the author deserves the most praise. He is in turns the most frustrating and despicable yet relatable of her actors, taking on an almost schizophrenic nature as his treachery sways between his pledge to the Master and his allegiance to the King.

The first book in a trilogy, The Traitor’s Heir is clearly setting the stage for some much larger conflicts. In the first instalment we see Eamon Goodman entangled in his desire to serve the Master and become aligned with his fierce power, fulfilling his destiny whilst simultaneously trying to be loyal to his friends and his free will. It’s a clever turn by Thayer to have her lead work and spy for both sides, making him an unlikeable ‘hero’ and an unlikely person to base the trilogy upon in some respects.

I have the second book in the series already and I’m invested enough to want to know how Thayer will redeem her protagonist. There’s a number of interesting threads to this world, from its own history to the system of magic and the aligned forces that face each other. It might not be all blood and guts but it was intriguing, engaging and engrossing.

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