Going from reading YA books to adult books can go either one of two ways: A) OH MY GOSH WHAT HAVE I BEEN MISSING or B) do ALL adult books meander like this?! Unfortunately, The Traitor’s Daughter by Paula Brandon was a book that didn’t exactly have me clamoring and proclaiming about how much I had been missing out on. I had been expecting magic, intrigue, romance and plagues, but wound up with a whole lot of wading to get to that point. Unfortunately, The Traitor’s Daughter, while fantastic in concept, doesn’t quite have the snappiness to it that I’ve come to expect with YA or the compulsive MUST FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT that I get with a lot of adult epic fantasy.
The Traitor’s Daughter by Paula Brandon is about a world in turmoil. Set in a land called the Veiled Isles, humans live with an amphibious race called the Sishmindri. Society is extremely stratified, with the Taerleezis at the top, serving as overlords to the Faerlornish, who once had glory. There is a magic called The Source which is about to reverse polarity and cause the Veiled Isles to be uninhabitable for humans. The change in the Source causes a plague where the dead rise. The only way to fix it is for seven arcanists from the seven magical families to overcome their rivalries and work together as a team to stop the shifting of the Source. On a more micro level, there is a fierce hatred that boils throughout the Isles towards Aureste Belandor, whom some call the Kneeser. Aureste wrested power a long time ago from distant relatives and now leads the Belander family. Unfortunately, for his daughter Jianna, this serves as a catalyst for the rebels to abduct her. The Traitor’s Daughter explores Jianna’s time as a hostage among the rebels and how she comes to understand the rebel cause.
The world Paula Brandon builds is a bit confusing to follow. There’s towns and wilderness. There is magic, through the Source, that only certain members of the Seven families are allowed to use. The Sishmindris are treated as slaves, yet there isn’t exactly explanation as to why. It is a world where marriages are arranged. The people are ruled by a governor, yet members of the Seven families experience prominence as well. The technology includes gun powder, yet they also use swords. It’s a bit hard to place the world, because while bits are familiar — carriages for example, others such as the use of mental arcane magic are unique. As a reader, I had trouble picturing the world within The Traitor’s Daughter.
Despite reservations with the world building, the characters within The Traitor’s Daughter are interesting and multifaceted. Jianna, one of the main characters, begins as rather spoiled and naive, thinking her family name will open every single door for her. She refuses to acknowledge that her father might not be perfect. As the story progresses, Jianna’s character develops. While she is put into awful circumstances, she learns self reliance. Jianna discovers a talent for healing and helping in the sick room. She learns to think beyond the story her father has told her. I thought Jianna made for a compelling protagonist, and was disappointed whenever the point of view left her.
There is a lot of violent action within The Traitor’s Daughter which is sure to either attract or turn people off. Some of the scenes, particularly those surrounding Jianna’s capture are a bit stomach turning. Yet, the action just serves to highlight how gritty the world of the Veiled Isles is. There are a lot of fight scenes within The Traitor’s Daughter as well as scenes depicting torture and violence against women. If you have a weak stomach, you might want to pass on this.
The Traitor’s Daughter is a meandering sort of book. Bits feel very convoluted and it takes a bit of time to get through. If you are an impatient reader, you might not like this book. The writing made me feel as though I was being held at arm’s length from truly diving in, as a reader. There were a few stretches that I found boring, yet I was compelled to finish because I was curious about Jianna’s fate, and the synopsis mentioned a romance. There is a romance, but it’s barely there. It’s not exactly front and center. If you are a person who judges books based on the cover, don’t read The Traitor’s Daughter expecting to get swept up in an epic romance.
My reaction to The Traitor’s Daughter by Paula Brandon is that it is an okay book. It is not outstanding. It is not awful. I found myself compelled by the characters, but confused by the world. I would have liked more plague and less exploration of minutiae. I came into the book expecting to be swept away by magic and romance and intrigue, but find myself feeling rather lukewarm in the end. If you are a reader who is patient and doesn’t mind a micro exploration of bigger themes, then you will enjoy The Tratior’s Daughter.
Disclosure: Received for review via Amazon Vine.
Other reviews of The Traitor’s Daughter by Paula Brandon:
Fantasy Book Critic – “The novel has a detached – and quite dark on occasion – style that worked very well”
My Bookish Ways – “ I was riveted with The Traitor’s Daughter”
Wickedly Bookish – “The whimsy of this book caught me right away”