Traitor’s Blade (Sebastian de Castell; Jo Fletcher books) is perhaps best tescribed as a noirish fantasy spin on Dumas’s Three Musketeers. But it’s better, and less derivative, than that sounds.
Five years ago, a revolt by powerful nobles led to the death of the king that Falcio val Mond served. Ever since, Falcio and his comrades Kest and Brasti have been struggling to reunite the Greatcoats, the order of swordsmen/justiciars the King founded to enforce the Law against even the mightiest.
But the Greatcloaks are in in popular disgrace, widely reviled as traitors for having failed to defend the King. The victorious nobles are enemies, having no desire for any counterweight against their absolute power in their domains. The remnant Greatcoats have survived only by not appearing to be a political threat.
When Falcio and his friends are framed for murder, they are forced to hire on as caravan guards to escape the scene of the crime. But their journey to the corrupt and blood-soaked city of Rijou is one out of the frying pan and into the fire. The King’s secrets – and Falcio’s own – are far from done with him.
This book is a satisfying swirl or derring-do, intrigue, treachery, and a soupcon of magic. But what really makes it work are the fight scenes. They are no vague swash and buckle but detailed descriptions of specific techniques and sequences – the “conversation of blades”. As a historical fencer and martial artist myself, I can certify that the author knows what he is writing about very well.
First of a sequence. I’ll want to read the sequels.