THE TRAITOR GOD by Cameron Johnston,
Angry Robot, Paperback Edition, £8.99
Reviewed by Shona Kinsella
For ten years, Edrin Walker has been living in exile, never staying on one place too long in case his past catches up with him. A powerful magician (who might have had something to do with the death of a god, if only he could remember) Edrin has powerful enemies, both inside Setharis and out.
Edrin has only vague memories of the night he left Setharis but one thing he does remember – his friends Lynas, Charra and their daughter, Layla will be protected. Edrin shares an illegal psychic link with Lynas – a link that allows him to witness first-hand the harrowing end to his friend’s life. Determined to discover who killed Lynas, and make sure they pay for it, Edrin returns to Setharis, only to be caught up in a much larger situation than he had anticipated.
This is a gritty and grim novel, full of mud and madness, blood and dirt and characters of every shade of grey. Edrin Walker is not the most likeable character, starting off as an arrogant, cheating mage whose only interest is in getting revenge for his friend’s death, he does grow throughout the novel. Or rather, more of Edrin’s past and motivations are revealed to us until ultimately, we are shown a damaged, powerful man who is afraid of his own power, constantly fighting the addictive nature of magic to avoid becoming a tyrant, someone who can control the minds of others for his own gain.
Lynas’ murder is part of a larger plot to take over the world, beginning with Setharis and, despite Edrin’s desire to get as far away as possible from the Arcanum and its hypocritical magi, not to mention the blood-soaked horror that’s just been unleashed, he still manages to find himself fin the thick of the fight to save the city.
This is a fantasy novel without a long set up at the beginning. Johnston throws the reader right into the action and the book has a break-neck pace pretty much throughout. The magic system is well put together, although I would have liked to have seen a few more limitations. Edrin is supposedly fearful of using his magic too much, for fear of its addictive nature and the fact that it can reveal his location to both the daemons and magi who are hunting for him, yet he uses the magic frequently throughout the book.
The story is told in first-person from Edrin’s point-of-view so he is necessarily the character we get to know the best, however, there are several other interesting characters. Charra, who doesn’t take any nonsense from her long-time friend, her daughter Layla, Shadea, a powerful mage of the arcanum and Eva, a warrior mage who Edrin flirts with.
An action-packed debut that stands alone while leaving enough questions for a sequel. One which I’ll be looking forward to reading.