The Traitor’s Game
By Jennifer Nielsen
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
Bang Bang Review
Kestra Dallisor’s father is the hand to a harsh king which practically makes her royalty. Although Kestra has plenty to eat, maids to assist her, and beautiful dresses, she’s also stubborn and refuses to fall to the whims of Lord Endrick so she’s sent to live in a nearby land with her maid and security to save her from herself. When she is summoned to return after three years, she knows she’s to be married for politics but before she can complete her journey, her small group is attacked and she is taken by rebels. Her task for freedom is simple, retrieve the Olden Blade which kills the immortal king and her maid and security will be returned unharmed.
Let me begin by saying that I LOVED The False Prince and I think Nielsen has great ideas.
Based on the preceeding sentence, you probably know where this review is going. My major issue was the main character, Kestra. First of all, I didn’t appreciate her name because Kestral from Winner Curse is one of my favorite YA characters of all time and Kestra sucked. So she’s privileged and as the reader, we’ve read this character so many times. The privileged character is oblivious to the poverty and abuse of everyone around them-OH MY GOD! This is Kestra and because this storyline is a trope, the reader knows how this ends up but it takes Kestra mid way through the book to figure this out. Meanwhile she’s incredibly cruel. Yes, she’s been kidnapped and she should feel a certain way but because the reader knows her captors’ families have been slaughtered and starved by the cruel king Kestra constantly defends, when she purposely dumps food on the floor and kicks over the tub of bath water and commands her kidnapper to clean it up-it’s cruel. We know she’ll eventually figure out that the king is a horrible person and her father who hates her are tyrants but I felt Kestra was beyond redeeming.
Kestra’s inner monologue was a problem. I know that her inner monologue was meant to clarify her decisions for the reader but throughout the novel she weighed her options-kill/escape Simon or Trina or go along. SHE CHOSE GO ALONG EVERY TIME! What’s the point of having an inner monologue if you are going to make the same decision everytime?
My second issue was the romance. Nielsen’s best series, The False Prince, did not have any romance and it was refreshing. I personally don’t think Nielsen knows how to write romance and she run away from it like to plague. One of Kestra’s kidnappers was her friend at the palace when they were ten. Sure she was a “princess” and he was a stable boy but still. She wrongly accused him of stealing which sent him to the dungeons to be hanged but he got away and now he’s her kidnapper. Of course he’s angry; he has every right but guess how long it takes him to stop hating her and start loving her. Maybe two pages? So now we have to suffer through the instalove and jealousy and blah blah blah. I felt no heat between the two.
At the end of the story, Kestra figured it all out without much info or context. I can’t expound because it’s spoilers but this is a HUGE pet peeve for me. I don’t like it when characters have these sudden epiphanies out of the blue and all by themselves. This is a short cut and Nielsen is a better writer than this.
My last and biggest issue was the end. I don’t want to write a separate spoiler rant because I do not want to waste my time on this book so if you want to see it, highlight the following…I was hoping Nielsen didn’t find a way to make Kestra the chosen one but nope. That was the nail in the coffin. Once again, this is a trope. Don’t do the obvious. Take a risk and make Celia the chosen one. Anyone but the main character-UGH!
This is a good series for younger teens or teens/readers who have never read a fantasy book in their entire lives.