Fiction Reviews

The Traitor's Heir

(2014) Anna Thayer, Lion Fiction, 8.99 / US$15.99, pbk, 541pp, ISBN 978-1-782-64075-2


The day of the proper fantasy trilogy is not dead! This is the first part of The Knight of Eldaran, and you can tell, because I don't think it would stand alone as a novel in its own right (unless you like being left wanting more. Each to their own). But for once, this (for me) book is one I want to read the continuation.

Set in a nation called the River Realm (yes, there are maps, but on the review copy I received the background to the map was very dark, making it hard to read), there is a Victorian feel to the novel. It focuses in on Cadet (later Hand) Eamon Goodman, a new entrant in the Master's army. Many of the names have an English or Irish ring to them, and the army's uniforms are red or black. I had this mental picture of pre-World War I infantry in my mind all the way through.

The Master defeated the King some 500 years earlier, and has ruled the nation with a rod of iron (sorry about the cliché) ever since. But the King is on the edge of returning, and his insurgents (Wayfarers, or Snakes) seem to be everywhere. And secretly Eamon is one of them.

But Eamon is conflicted; he has sworn to obey the Master, and has received his mark upon his hand. He also has the power to 'breach' people, to enter into their minds and discover their inner secrets it's a bit like the 'Vulcan Mind Meld' in Star Trek. Because of his character he wins the trust of his superiors and very quickly rises through the ranks, so that within a matter of weeks he gains the dizzy heights of Hand, close to the Master. He also gains the hand, and bed, of Lady Alessia. His heart and will having been won over by the Master and the Lady, he puts his allegiance to the King to the back of his mind, and becomes hardened.

And then, through a series of failures (an ambush ambushed, a close companion outed as a Snake, his Lady informing him she had been told to win him over and spy on him), he re-discovers his true purpose. But... And there we must leave our story for the next instalment. Same time, same place, same channel.

I have a confession to make. When I saw the publisher of this novel, I guessed what was coming, but was not disappointed. Lion Fiction is an imprint of Lion Hudson that is itself a Christian publishing house, specialising in what are called 'cross-over' titles. These are books which have a Christian viewpoint, but which are also accessible to a non-religious audience, and might help them to want to know more (Stephen Lawhead was an earlier Lion author).

With Lion's fantasy's there are touch-points with the Christian story. Here, there is an evil Master, a coming King who has Way-farer's active in the nation, the hero is called Good man, there is much use of the word grace. The author's blurb on the back of the book says that she 'writes and lectures internationally on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and C S Lewis'.

For me, these details added to my enjoyment of the book; things to look out for, and wonder how she is going carry on the concept to the end of the trilogy. For you, my telling you about this might make you want not to read the books. All I can say is: does knowing that C S Lewis was a Christian spoil reading the Narnia novels? Maybe, maybe not.

I enjoyed this novel, and look forward to reading the next.

Peter Young

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