Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston

Every once in a while a review book that ticks all my boxes lands on my desk. The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston is just that. Smart-mouthed protagonist, check. An ancient, degenerate city filled with awful people, check. Mages and dark magic, check. Plenty of backstabbing, skullduggery and less-than-savoury, morally ambiguous characters, check.

Edrin Walker has been on the run for a decade, part of his mind locked away from him so that crucial parts of his memories of one fateful night in the city of Setharis are locked away. He’s done something terrible – he knows that – but as for what exactly, we’ll find out once he does. Not only is he a wanted man, but he’s also a practitioner of a rare kind of magic – of being able to manipulate people’s minds that labels him as a tyrant. Which is another black mark against his name.

When his bestie, Lynas, dies, Edrin (who happens to have a pack of bloodthirsty demons on his trail) is compelled to return to Setharis to solve Lynas’s murder and save the lives of the people he loves, whom he left behind all those years before.

Part murder mystery, part noir(ish) fantasy thriller, The Traitor God had everything I look for in a fantasy epic – in gory bucket loads. I can only describe my level of enjoyment as on par with all the reasons why I love games like Dragon Age so much. Johnston has nearly as much lore that he feeds into the story, trickle by trickle, so you feel as if you’re stepping into an ancient world oozing history. All the excitement. All the nail-biting boss battles and well thought-out magical systems.

His pacing is also on the mark; not once does he allow Edrin a moment’s respite, as he gets embedded into one untenable situation after the other – leaving me asking, “This can’t get worse, can it?” And then it does. Of course it does. And I found myself compelled to read (yet another) chapter. I especially loved the fact that he cleverly foreshadows many outcomes early on – so everything that happens early on in the story, has consequences later. He doesn’t shy away from violence either, and just a warning to squeamish readers – things do get rather messy near the end.

My question now is, when do we get the next instalment? I haven’t had this much fun with a fantasy novel in ages – this is most certainly one of my highlights for 2018. Johnston’s done a fantastic job, and if you enjoy the likes of Mark Lawrence, you’ll be right at home here.