- A Plague of Swords (The Traitor Son Cycle Book 4).
- Miles Cameron.
- 464 pages.
- Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / High Fantasy / Heroic Fantasy.
- My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.
One enemy has fallen … a greater one remains … now it’s war The Red Knight withstood the full might of his enemy and won the day. In a victory which will be remembered through the ages, he brought disparate factions together and turned them into allies against a more powerful foe than they had ever seen. Now, he will need his allies more than ever. Because behind one adversary hid another–one with allies of their own–whose goal was never to destroy Alba, but to distract the Kingdom while achieving his true aim. And whatever it is, it’s probably not in the Red Knight’s interest. With one army defeated, now the Red Knight must fight again–and for every one of his allies there is a corresponding enemy. Spread out in different lands, and on sea, it will all come down to one last gamble. And to whether or not the Red Knight has guessed their foe’s true intentions. With each throw of the dice, everything could be lost.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
A Plague of Swords is the penultimate book in Mile Cameron’s complex and utterly engrossing 5 book fantasy series The Traitor Son Cycle to be followed by The Fall Of Dragons hopefully in the not to distant future!
After the conclusion at the end of the previous book (The Dread Wyrm) we are once again thrust straight back into the action and drama of the series. The Dread Wyrm ended with the alliance between the humans and non-humans gaining a vital victory in an epic battle that helped ensure the fate of the world for another day.
That battle left ramifications, which are now being felt and while one enemy is retreating in an attempt to regroup. Yet another malignant entity appears and The Red Knight and the alliance, now looking at enemies on three separate fronts in two distant locations are required midway into the book to split and fight. With each being lead by a Muriens Brother, Gabriel, Gavin and the younger Aneas leading a much smaller force.
Being the second to last book in the series, there’s no lull in the story telling or plot like you often see in other fantasy series, where the author draws both the main storyline and individual character arcs out, plodding along at a sedate pace simply to set up the epic conclusion in the final installment. But not with Cameron, no! Cameron once again gives us a fast paced if slightly streamlined (the book length is around 100 pages shorter than the previous books) tale that pulls you in from the first page and doesn’t let go until the last.
Adding little extra layers to the story being told and plots within plots, Cameron keeps enlarging both his cast of characters and the world he has created. This time around we are treated to a look at some new areas, new characters and Cameron also introduces us to sea travel and with it, the resulting sea monsters that plague the seas. And the ensuing sea battles truly are epic and a highlight of the book.
It’s hard to review a book when it’s part of a series, especially when it’s a later book and you don’t want to give anything away that has happened in the previous books as one of the main reasons I love fantasy so much is the journey that you get to take with the characters from that very first page all the way through to the very last – if the characters survive that long of course. Alas, being fantasy, we do see a few deaths in this book, mark my words!
The characters and their development in the Traitor Son Cycle have always been top quality with Cameron creating a core group of three-dimensional characters that you can really get behind and in Gabriel Muriens, The Red Knight he has created one of the best characters in fantasy to centre his epic tale around. Many pages ago, way back when at the start of the series Gabriel had some very unlikeable traits but he was still a captivating character that managed to draw you in. Now four books in we know him, those traits are what we like about him and while they have been somewhat tempered, they are still there just not so prominent, only on occasion and he seems more comfortable with his fate and in himself giving a much more human aspect to the character. The Red Knight with his crazy plans, schemes and never knowing what he’s likely to do next is an exceptional character, dynamic, captivating and enigmatic and a leader that you want to follow.
I’m loathe to compare characters especially when they are from different media and different eras. But, the one comparison that I have kept coming back to with Gabriel whilst reading this series (no offence is meant to the author) is that Gabriel reminds me of Hannibal from The A-Team.
For those of you who don’t know it, The A-Team was a 1980’s action and adventure TV show where a US Army Special Forces unit escaped from military jail where they were being held for a crime they didn’t commit (it’s a classic and one of my all time favourite TV shows). The group was led by Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith a master tactician who each episode would come up with crazy and daring plans to aid and help innocent people, now whether or not those plans always worked out the way they should have is another question! But, after his plan in some form had come to fruition and the villain had been thwarted, Hannibal would always say his famous catchphrase “I love it when a plan comes together” and that’s what reminds me of Gabriel in this series, he shares some traits with Hannibal and as such I can easily picture him grinning away and reciting Hannibal’s old catchphrase.
With such a large cast of characters there’s sometimes pages between them appearing and then we only get fleeting glimpses of them but it’s all part of the story being told in A Plague of Swords and the new characters and certain other older ones take precedence. It’s only my personal stand point but some of the best parts in the series have been the camaraderie, banter and interplay between certain characters, Bad Tom and Sauce, Bad Tom and Gabriel and Sauce and Gabriel and the interactions between them this time are somewhat limited.
For me, that’s a double-edged sword as you miss the characters when they’re not on the page or interacting with each other but it also adds to the enjoyment that you get when they do appear together. You often can’t help but smile at some of the things they say to each other and even though The Red Knight’s company has exponentially grown at its core his casa still feels like a family and it’s a pleasure to take this journey with them. The new characters introduced fit in well with the book, story and overall tone of the series and are decent additions to the already expansive array of personalities on display.
It has to be wrote that one of my favourite characters in the book isn’t even human, anyone who reads this blog will know that I have a soft spot for animal companions in fantasy books (Nighteyes in The Farseer Trilogy and Storm in The Faithful and The Fallen series are the two that immediately spring to mind) and you can now add Gabriel’s pet Gryphon Ariosto to that list, the conversations between the two were one of the books highlights for me and are one of the many little gems strewn throughout A Plague of Swords with Ariosto being a slightly weird but absolutely wonderful creation.
One of the main reasons why The Traitor Son Cycle should be placed in the upper echelons of fantasy is the inclusion of both military and historical fiction elements to the series. These additions are a welcome highlight giving you a merging together of fantasy and history that makes for the perfect blend, creating a unique fantastical setting that has its foundation steeped in historical influence.
The author himself is a keen reenactor and you can see that he has used his knowledge of the subject in the detailed descriptions of armour, military and battles found within the book and the series on a whole. That has always been one of the many highlights of the series and something that helps to set it apart from the various other fantasy series out there, the attention to detail that Cameron includes when describing the various armour, weaponry and battle formations and tactics.
I had a few slight niggles about the book, firstly as mentioned above the lack of interaction between certain characters. Secondly, that a few of the plot points are only glossed over with and could have perhaps been further developed. And, thirdly, the lack of emphasis on the military aspect this time around with the focus in battle shifting more towards the magical. However, none of these very minor flaws were enough to detract from my enjoyment of the book in the least with the book still being a thoroughly enjoyable read.
The magic system has always been well thought out and it’s used really well during A Plague of Swords, both in battles and for other parts of the story to. The battles are all of a high standard, be they the sea battles, smaller skirmishes in the wilderness or the larger scale battles that take place.
Cameron’s world building continues to be top quality and he further develops and increases the scale of his constructed world by introducing new areas and delving deeper into locations that we have already visited. His writing style draws you in with vivid descriptions, emotion, humour and visceral action.
Would I recommend A Plague of Swords? Yes, I would! It’s a good book in its own right. But, I’m a firm believer in that to truly get the most out of a series you need to start at the very beginning with the first book, that way you get to join the characters on their journey from the start and build a relationship with them growing to care about the trials and tribulations they find themselves in and their fates.
And, while A Plague of Swords fails to live up to the high standard Cameron set with the previous three books in the series (The Red Knight, The Fell Sword and The Dread Wyrm) it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing and welcome addition to The Traitor Son Cycle that deserves to be at the forefront of fantasy. Leaving you waiting in eager anticipation for the final installment and what is sure to be an epic conclusion.
And, for The Traitor Son Cycle itself, well, yes, I most definitely would recommend this series. It’s a truly stunning epic fantasy series that in this humble bloggers opinion deserves to be listed as one of the top fantasy series and for me is a guaranteed must read.
If you’re not already part of The Red Knight’s Company then sign up now and let Gabriel and his bunch of colourful characters lead you on an epic journey, highly recommended.
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