Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Traitor Queen by Trudi Canavan

The Traitor Queen is the final volume in Trudi Canavan’s Traitor Spy Trilogy. I read the first two books as they came out and while I only have vague recollections about the plot of the first book, I didn’t find this to be an issue at all with picking up the story again.

The Traitor Queen is very much two story lines running parallel with little impact on each other. There are a few minor common characters — most notably Sonea, who was the main character in the Black Magician Trilogy set earlier in the same world — but for the most part the two story lines took place in different countries and didn’t intersect. I didn’t have a problem with this as I was already invested in both sets of happenings from the earlier books. I can see how others may find this more irritating, however. The two story lines did come together at the very end in terms of having related consequences on the future of the world, but otherwise weren’t very thematically linked either.

The war that takes place in the The Traitor Queen is fairly short by fantasy book standards (and by Canavan’s own past writings) but what I found interesting was that it dealt with non-combatants caught suddenly in a war zone. And not miscellaneous peasants (who always get caught in war zones in these sorts of things) but foreign diplomats who don’t necessarily have a clear “side” and who will have to deal with whichever side does win. Assuming they’re not caught in the cross-fire. Although the shortness of the war meant this wasn’t explored in a large amount of depth, I very much liked that it was included and that there were tangible consequences for the observers.

I continue to like all the characters we’re supposed to like in this series. My favourite is easily Lilia who grows quite a bit as a person throughout this book. There are few lesbian protagonists in fiction, so it’s nice to see that the number isn’t actually zero. And she gets to save the day. (Actually, given what happens in Sachaka as well as in Kyralia — where Lilia is — the Traitor Spy Trilogy is fairly heavy in empowered women, so yay.) My only objection to Lilia’s story is that I would’ve liked to see a bit more of a conclusion to her run-ins with the novice bully magician.

Canavan has left the ending open so that there might be a sequel but with all the loose ends absolutely tied up. From her website, I see that Canavan is working on something in a completely different world, so I wouldn’t be expecting more Kyralia/Sachaka/Allied Lands books soon if at all.

I recommend this series to fantasy lovers, especially those who enjoy non-medieval Europe settings. Of course, you should start from the first book in the trilogy, Ambassador’s Mission, then read the second, The Rogue, before reading The Traitor Queen. If you want the full effect, I suggest reading the Black Magician Trilogy first (The Magician’s Guild, The Novice, The High Lord) but that isn’t necessary for the Traitor Spy trilogy to make sense. Although if you’re thinking of reading the Black Magician Trilogy, Traitor Spy does contain spoilers for the ending as the consequences are important to the world building.

4 / 5 stars

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