Archive for December 13th, 2013

Kate Elliott – Traitors’ Gate

Friday, December 13th, 2013

The third and final installment of the Crossroads trilogy by Kate Elliott is Traitors’ Gate (2009). It is the conclusion of an original fantasy tale in a world that is quite different from the usual. The central setting of the story has an unusual history which has had a strong effect on the behavior of the people living in it. While their society is breaking down into great brutality, there is still a core holding up the old values and traditions.

It is this cultural difference that partially drives the plot development of Traitors’ Gate as the old clashes with the new. Change will occur but can the peaceful land be restored or will it be lost forever? Something that was kept somewhat hidden before now is revealed. The nature of the threat is quite different as it seems from the outside and the solution is rather low key, reducing the drama and the size of the events. In fact, the finale of the first book turns out to be the grandest, with the second moving much lower and the third even a bit more. In a way this is surprising and certainly a change from the usual fare. The downside is that much becomes shallow and hollow although how it is achieved is provides a turn of its own.

To prevent the plot from turning into a simple story Elliott throws in a number of surprising twists that change much of what the reader might have expected. Either so, Elliott already showed her hand at doing so in the earlier novels so the reader is aware that she does dare. Nevertheless somewhat of a happy ending is provided for as the twists also allow some mechanisms to fall into place to provide a course for the future. In these ways Elliott provides extra depth and careful handling of the plot. However, they did remind me of the way she twisted the ending of her Crown Of Stars series as there are certain similarities. A writer should take care not to use the same tricks to end the story.

As there is more story to tell Elliott has less space to spend time on her characters’ development. There is plenty that happens but it is not as much driven by the characters as before. There is actually a bit of repetition as the same seems to happen to a character several times as if it were some running gag, although it of course doesn’t feel that way. It seemed as if Elliott needed to move the plot in certain ways and the way to do this was by putting a character into the same position several times as if that seemed to be the best solution. That was a thing I did get a bit annoyed about. In several cases a risk is taken and almost every time the action was blown. It was simply too coincidental and rather obvious plot contrivances. Of course this can happen but in this story it happened a bit too much and too easily. They were some of the minor weaknesses to the series.

In my reviews of the first two books I already summarized much that is too be liked about this series. Foremostly its original setting and cast of characters. There are also the really surprising twists and unorthodox plot development. Elliott puts the drama in different places than one would have expected. This does result in a different feeling and a mixed satisfactory read. Overall this series is much more solidly written than her previous series in which the quality varied a lot in each book. Here there is much more balance which allows for a constant engaging read. I don’t categorize it as one of my great reads but it is certainly good and of high quality. Recommended.