The Traitor’s Game

traitor's game

The Traitor’s Game

By Jennifer Nielsen

Genre: Fantasy

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.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 1/2


Cruel Prince

cruel prince

Cruel Prince (The Folk of Air #1)

By Holly Black

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: January 2018


Jude, her twin sister, and her older sister with the pointy ears were living a normal human life when a strange green man comes to their house and kills their parents. He then takes them off to live in Faery land to raise them as his kids.  Cut to ten years later when we see Jude as a human who has fully assimilated into faery land but not all the Folk are thrilled with humans.

Jude and her sister are mercilessly bullied by a prince of the High King and his friends. Although Jude is afraid most of the time, she doesn’t show her fear she just continuously repeats advice from others in her head.  Jude’s sister, Taryn, is the more affable twin who doesn’t want to cause trouble.  While Jude longs to be a knight in the King’s court, Taryn just wants to get married and have a simple life.  Jude unrealistically endures the bullying by returning to school the day after they tried to kill her for a second time and never has an inner monologue about her trepidation.  All the Faeries are hot including Locke, the bully with a heart of gold.  Jude witnesses Locke’s small acts of kindness and figures that it’s okay to date him even though he continues to associate with people who are trying to kill them ALL THE F***ING TIME.

Jude’s stepfather is the general in the King’s army and he’s taught his daughters the art of strategy but you would never know that seeing how Jude can’t even seem to strategically retaliate against her bullies but she’s some how smart enough to develop and execute the final plan.

As you can see I had issues with this book and I know I’m in the minority here.  There were a lot of little things that bothered me.  Jude’s uneven characterization was one of the little things.  She also does something really out of character that pissed me off but I’ll save that in my spoiler rant section.

I had a problem with Black’s writing style in regards to character development. The motives of the bullies bothered me and once again, I’ll expound in my spoiler rant section.

Taryn could have been a great ying to Jude’s yang.  In the beginning, it seemed like Taryn was Jude’s be-careful-voice but Black did not expand this theme and instead Taryn’s actions/motives were weak.   The main villain, I’m assuming is the cruel prince, was a stereotype that I figured out within the first two encounters. We’ve all read him a million times and there’s nothing different/new added to his character.

Black did a couple of things that I hate in books.  #1. I hate when a character suddenly gets an epiphany and figures it all out on their own.  Jude does this THE ENTIRE NOVEL.  She just reads something a couple of times and she’s figured it all out.  #2.  I don’t like it when authors don’t write organically but instead the writing is forced.  For example, Jude is a spy and she just happens to pick the correct room and happens finds the piece of evidence that just happens to be the key to the entire plot (which by the way there was no plot but I’ll get to that later).  Jude happens to casually pick up a piece of jewelry that just happens to be the answer to everything.  I understand that events have to drive the plot but it should be part of the storytelling.  I shouldn’t be able to see it coming.

The entire book seemed forced.  The bullying, the world building, the Game of Thrones type development, the battle among identical twins, the trying to fit in.  The bullying really bothered me and I wouldn’t call it bullying; I’d call it torture.  It was gratuitous and they continuously repeated their motives as they were torturing her-you’re human and you’re mortal and you’re weak.  OK, I GET IT.  Black seemed to be going for the muggle vs. wizard thing but she didn’t do it well.  Lastly, this book had no plot.  I will drop a book one star if there’s no plot.  This was basically a 0.5 book.  It was all back story and the real story begins in the next book which I will not be reading. There were other little things that bothered me but I’ll save it for the spoiler rant.

This book tried too hard. I like a fun fluffy fantasy with gratuitous villains and villains with a heart of gold and far out story lines-Falling Kingdoms is a good example.  I also enjoy a fantasy with multiple themes, consistent and strong character development, a forbidden romance, a great war-Winner’s Kiss Series is a good example. Cruel Prince tried to be a serious fantasy but Jude and the supporting cast wasn’t strong enough.

Bang Bang Rating:  bombbombbomb