Review: The Traitor’s Daughter by Paula Brandon

The Traitor's DaughterThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The novels that I find the most memorable are the ones that take me by surprise.  It might be because I got a different idea of what the story would be like from synopses and teaser text, or it might be because the author brings in an unexpected twist.  Either way, I like not knowing what to expect from a novel, and that’s one of the things that made me like The Traitor’s Daughter.  Paula Brandon’s novel of political intrigue and deception sneaks the magic in under your nose.

(Description nicked from B&

“On the Veiled Isles, ominous signs are apparent to those with the talent to read them. The polarity of magic is wavering at its source, heralding a vast upheaval poised to alter the very balance of nature. Blissfully unaware of the cataclysmic events to come, JiannaBelandor, the beautiful, privileged daughter of a powerful Faerlonnish overlord, has only one concern: the journey to meet her prospective husband.  But revolution is stirring as her own conquered people rise up against their oppressors, and Jianna is kidnapped and held captive at a rebel stronghold, insurance against what are perceived as her father’s crimes.

The resistance movement opens Jianna’s eyes―and her heart. Despite her belief in her father’s innocence, she is fascinated by the bold and charming nomadic physician and rebel sympathizer, FalasteRione—who offers Jianna her only sanctuary in a cold and calculating web of intrigue. As plague and chaos grip the land, Jianna is pushed to the limits of her courage and resourcefulness, while virulent enemies discover that alliance is their only hope to save the human race.”

I mentioned at the beginning of this review that I found this book to be unexpected.  I was aware that magic was used in the story, but I didn’t know to what extent.  And actually, there isn’t a lot of magic being flung around.  It’s certainly there, but it’s only a few scenes and only used by a few people.  I didn’t find this to be a detriment, though; rather, I appreciated that magic didn’t take over the narrative and inform everything that everybody was doing.  Magic in this world seems to be difficult to accomplish, and as the synopsis hints, it may be about to drastically change in a way that would make it almost impossible.

The lion’s share of the novel deals with political intrigue.  Brandon paints a surprisingly complicated portrait of a conquered people and their relationship with the ruling class.  Initially it’s a lot to absorb, and my attention wandered a bit.  Once I got further into the novel and got a better feel for how the story was going to play out, I began to really enjoy it.  I spent most of an afternoon reading this book and ended up going through the bulk of it in the course of a few hours.  I found that the slow and deliberate start set up a lot of things that would happen down the line, and the novel is the better for this pacing choice.

The action is top notch, and one of the things I enjoyed most was watching the dramatic events that occur as a result of assumptions or bad information.  Jianna’s kidnapping sets off events that culminate in a feud so volatile that lives are lost—and that feud had nothing to do with Jianna.  It’s a good example of schadenfreude, the pleasure you get from watching someone else’s misfortune.  As you read this novel, you’re going to be simultaneously wincing at the chain of mistakes that leads to disaster and gleefully reading to see how bad it really gets.

As the main character, Jianna has a lot to live up to.  Brandon writes her as the “spoiled little rich girl”, and then manages to have her retain a lot of that attitude while having her learn what the real world is like.  She has a belief in her own importance, and she never really loses it; however, she gains a lot of compassion for those whom she has previously never considered, like the ever-present servants.  I appreciated that Jianna didn’t change too much too quickly, as I think that would be more unrealistic than the complete turnaround that characters in other books experience.

The Traitor’s Daughter is the first in a series, and I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for the next one to be published.  Paula Brandon’s novel is rich and dark with enough of a bite to make it unique, rather like a good chocolate.  And as everyone knows, you can never have enough chocolate.  This would make an excellent holiday gift for the fantasy reader in your life.