Are you salivating while you wait for season 4 of Game of Thrones? Well I have just the thing to tide you over until that GoT itch can be scratched. It’s called a book! You remember those! And interestingly enough, I just learned that Game of Thrones is actually based on a series of them. The tome I am reviewing today is called Traitor’s Blade.
Traitor’s Blade is high fantasy that follows the exploits of swordsman Falcio val Mond. The setting is a medieval world named Tristia which is divided into several duchies. Tristia is a very well thought out land and contains many factions and history of its own. And if you enjoy a lot of action, witty writing and great storytelling you are sure to enjoy Traitor’s Blade.
The opening sequence makes it very clear that this story is not for children but rather adult fans of fantasy. And no quarter is afforded to the reader when it comes to the depictions of violence contained within. The combat sequences are very well detailed and part of that description is going to include the unpleasant end result for one duelist every time.
Busy author Sebastien de Castell was kind enough to answer a few questions in between his book signings and other interviews.
The battle sequences are great, it’s obvious that you paid great attention to them. Did you have some background knowledge or experience in the art of sword fighting?
Sebastien: I used to choreograph sword fights for theatre and other media (in fact, I taught some weapons work to game designers early in the GD program!) It definitely helps when writing action scenes for the book, but not for the reasons many people might think. It’s not just about putting every move or technique you know into the scene. What matters most is that every action scene needs to be its own story. It needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Each one needs to be distinct and meaningful; every cut or thrust needs to somehow reflect the individual characters in the story. It’s that last part that makes writing Falcio’s fight scenes so much fun: he sees every fight as a problem to be solved – an intellectual puzzle where he just needs to work out the right sequence of moves to win. But the dark moments of his own past sometimes take him over and, in those moments, all his skill and intellect disappears and is replaced by rage and recklessness. So in both types of fights, we gain some insight into who he really is.
The world seems very well defined. What came first, creating the land of Tristia or defining the main characters of this particular story?
Sebastien: Usually the core of a story starts with a situation for me – a tough spot someone finds themselves in. In the case of Traitor’s Blade, you can see that in the first scene in the book: three once idealistic swordsmen realize that all the things they’ve fought for have been in vain. Imagine devoting yourself to a single ideal or code of conduct only to discover that it had completely and utterly failed you. Trying to answer the question of what would come next is what gets me excited.
With Traitor’s Blade, every subsequent element of the world of Tristia arose from a variety of experiences and influences. The idea for the Greatcoats – these sword-wielding travelling magistrates – came from reading about the English itinerant judges in the Middle Ages. These were judges appointed by the King and sent on year-long circuits of towns and villages where they would hear cases and render verdicts. I wanted to take that idea and explore what would happen if these travelling magistrates had to deal with local nobles who might not like their verdicts and might decide it was easier to kill off the judge than pay the fine.
The coats that the characters wear came from an actual greatcoat my brother gave me. I was working as an actor and kept finding myself on night shoots, freezing my butt off waiting for the next shot and I discovered that this coat was perfect – it kept me warm, had tons of pockets large and small where I could hide things I’d need between takes, and felt like something I could live in if I had to. That gave me the idea for the greatcoats that Falcio, Kest, and Brasti wear – a combination of mantle of office and flexible armour perfectly suited for a travelling duelist. Now if I could only just find one like theirs for myself…
It really feels like there is a lot of space for other adventures within this realm. Do you have future plans to expand this book into a series?
There are four books in the Greatcoats series, all of which are being published by Quercus in the U.K./U.S. and Penguin in Canada (and Piper Verlag in Germany.) The second is with my publishers getting ready for editing. Books 3 and 4 are plotted, and at about four o’clock in the morning a few weeks ago I suddenly woke up, walked into my office and typed the opening page of the third book.
The second book is tentatively entitled, Greatcoat’s Lament, and it takes our heroes on a darker and more perilous journey than they’ve faced before. Falcio will come to question his idealized memories of King Paelis, Kest will pay the price that comes with wanting to be the greatest swordsman in the world, and Brasti will discover he can no longer get away with simply playing the charming rogue. Valiana, Aline, and the Tailor all take more central roles in the second book than they did in the first, and the clash between their different visions of right and wrong will shake Tristia’s very foundations.
One thing I’ve committed myself to personally – that I think applies whether you make novels or movies or games – is that even though The Greatcoats is a four-book series, I want each book is a complete story in and of itself. I think too often now the audience gets shortchanged with a cliffhanger instead of an ending. With Traitor’s Blade, I made sure to end the novel at a point that would give readers a satisfying conclusion rather than simply leaving them hanging as they wait for the next book. I’ve worked very hard to do the same with Greatcoat’s Lament, so I very much hope that readers will enjoy it.
I’d like to thank Sebastien again for taking time out from his writing to give us these great author insights. I strongly recommend you get yourselves a copy of this great book! …And I forgot all about Game of Thrones while I was reading! If you want more information make a visit to Sebastien’s home on the web at www.decastell.com .
Andrew Laing is a Senior Instructor with VFS Game Design