The Traitor Queen is the concluding volume in Trudi Canavan’s Traitor Spy Trilogy and, we are to assume, the final chapter of our adventures in Kyralia, a world first introduced in her Black Magician Trilogy. Six books deep into the story of Sonea and the Magician’s Guild (not counting The Magician’s Apprentice, a prequel novel), one could have hoped for more from this novel. Canavan’s characters and prose are as endearing as ever, but the whole The Traitor Queen delivers a shallow plot with little development. As a fan of her work I was still taken in by her writing and the fast pace of the novel, yet I would still have hoped for more.
Events are building to a climax in Sachaka as Lorkin returns from his exile with the Traitor rebels.I’m not foolish enough to think anything I say will dissuade anyone from reading The Traitor Queen, and this is far from my goal. As the grand finale for a series that now counts seven novels, it would certainly be a shame for anyone to stop right before the finish line. But it is not possible for me to avoid the glaring flaws the novel possesses. All begins well in the opening part of the book. We pick up the story threads of the many characters virtually where we left them at the close of The Rogue.
The Traitor Queen has given Lorkin the huge task of brokering an alliance between his people and the Traitors, and Lorkin has had to become a feared black magician in order to harness the power of an entirely new kind of gemstone magic. This knowledge could transform the Guild of Magicians - or make Lorkin and outcast forever.
Just about everyone is in a bit of a precarious situation, but none more so that Cery, the enterprising (but aging) thief, who is being backed into a corner by the dangerous rogue magician, Skellin. Sonea is in a safer situation, but fear for the safety of her son stills gnaws at her, and she is preparing to embark on what could possibly be quite a dangerous mission. Lorkin has returned from the Traitors’ Sanctuary but now must face the Sachakan authorities. Dannyl, meanwhile, must prepare to help Lorkin while attempting to figure out where he stands with Ashaki Achati.
Despite this exciting starting point, and the tremendous efforts Canavan has put into building the events of this novel over the past two books, it’s basically all downhill from there. Characters were ever one of Canavan’s strengths, and our desire to see them through the end of their journeys is the main motivation to keep reading. That is to say, if I hadn’t already invested so much in these characters, this world, and this story, I can’t say that the individual strength of this novel would have been much to go by.
The story unfolds in a rather drab way. From nearly the start of the novel, the conclusion seems forgone. Sure, these are books that one would expect to have a good ending - so a certain predictability was inherent. However, I still expected twists, complications, difficulty, at the very least a certain sense of believable danger but none were to be found. There are twists, but their significance is downplayed, sidelined, or in some way left as unused opportunities to add some thrill to the novel. Any situation of danger (i.e. the supposedly climactic battle that we rightly assumed would be in this novel), appears pedestrian as Canavan builds no sense of doubt as to the outcome of the conflicts.
To be fair, during my reading of this novel I was held in captivation and was thrilled to a rare extent, but as I said before I chalk this up less to this particular book’s strengths and more to my desire to finally discover the conclusion to this epic. It’s simply a shame it could not deliver more. Regardless, treating it as part of a trilogy as a whole, the comparatively poor quality of The Traitor Queen should not deter anyone from reading The Traitor Spy Trilogy. However before attempting this, readers should give their attention to Canavan’s first trilogy, the much better executed Black Magician Trilogy. The Traitor Queen is out now from Orbit in both the US and the UK.
Trudi Canavan's Website: http://www.trudicanavan.com
Buy The Traitor Queen:
The Traitor Queen (The Traitor Spy Trilogy)
The Traitor Queen: The Traitor Spy Trilogy: Book Three