Is there anything left I can say about The Traitor Son Cycle that I haven’t already said? After all, I have already posted reviews of the first, second, third, and fourth books, and I posted a pitch for Game of Thrones fan looking for a new series. The answer is: of course. If you have been reading my blog for any significant amount of time, you know I always have more nonsense to spew.
And this review is important! I am second to no one in my love of epic fantasy. Sure, I love those slim paperback sword and sorcery novels from the 70s. But I still view a great epic fantasy series as the pinnacle of all of speculative fantasy. But epic fantasy is a big commitment. I was in elementary school when I started reading The Wheel of Time. By the time I finished it, I was a practicing lawyer. So far be it from me to complain if you ask (1) is the series finished and (2) does it stick the landing (I’m looking at you, Death Gate Cycle)? Back to the topic at hand, the answers to those two questions in regard to The Traitor Son Cycle are (1) yes and (2) hell yes.
The Fall of Dragons is fabulous, and it cements The Traitor Son Cycle as one of my all-time favorite fantasy series.
The Traitor Son Cycle is not Fantasy 101. The Red Knight is a fairly conventional siege story, but Cameron spins it into something much more complex in the later books. And even in the first book, Cameron introduces a host of POV characters and minor plotlines. The full import of those characters and plotlines in some cases only becomes fully apparent in The Fall of Dragons. That greatly increased my enjoyment of this book and raised my already high estimation of the series. It also makes me want to re-read the entire thing.
Those of you who haven’t read the entire thing are in for a treat. (You haven’t!? Go read it now! If you aren’t yet convinced, I will try to keep this review light on spoilers for both this book and the series as a whole.) The one thing I struggled with reading The Fall of Dragons was all the details I had forgotten over the course of the last year. I did catch up well before the bulk of the book had passed though, and a glossary of characters in the back was invaluable (less helpful were the maps).
As I already mentioned, the minor characters and plotlines whose true importance is revealed are a highlight. Two POV characters in particular are worth emphasizing. Morgon Mortirmir has been a secondary character since book 2, but I only really began to appreciate him in this book. Not just the role he plays in the story, but as a character—an arrogant, socially awkward teenager who possesses immense power. The other is Ash, the primary nemesis in the series. Cameron does an incredible job of getting in head of a creature so inhuman, powerful, and immortal that it struggles to understand humans at all.
Cameron does NOT mess around with The Fall of Dragons. We are treated to several big battles and crazy action right from the get-go. The battles have always been the highlight of The Traitor Son Cycle, and Cameron doesn’t let up in the slightest in the final volume. But the real highlight is Gabriel’s army’s trek through the Gates. I won’t give any spoilers, but damn. Stuff gets weird. And Cameron painstakingly builds the suspense. Gawin (and Aneas and the Abbey at Lissen Carak) are doomed if Gabriel can’t get there in time, and Cameron spends much of the book showing how desperate their straits are. Thus pushing back the trek itself. And once the Gate is open? Cameron cuts away again. It is a master class in story structure.
There is a lot going on here. I will limit myself to mentioning a few things. Master Smyth’s long game is revealed. We finally figure out what was going on with the Patriarch, and it is well worth the wait. How do you top an undead dragon? You’ll see. Other fantasy stories lavish attention on the feasts. Cameron is much more concerned with whatever it is hot to drink that morning. Cameron is a man who knows how sleeping outside in the cold and wet can turn drinking rotgut instant coffee into a transcendental experience. Trekking through the Wild plays a significant role. Cameron talked about how hard it is to travel off-trail in a blog post a while back. At least Gawin and Aneas don’t have to deal with any laurel hells.
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to make some hippocras and start a re-read.
5 of 5 Stars (book).
5 of 5 Stars (series).
Disclosure: Orbit was kind enough to send me a review copy (at my request).