- Series: The Traitor Son Cycle (Book 3)
- Paperback: 608 pages
- Publisher: Orbit (October 20, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 031621230X
- ISBN-13: 978-0316212304
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.6 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 148 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Dread Wyrm (The Traitor Son Cycle) Paperback – October 20, 2015
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About the Author
Top customer reviews
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There are very few authors that I regard as genuinely approaching the caliber of Tolkein, and Miles Cameron along with C.J. Cherryh, McMaster Bujold, and D.M. Cornish are in that exalted company. Well done Mr Cameron and please keep delivering such fine and enjoyable works.
The Dread Wyrm, book three in The Traitor Son Cycle, picks up where The Fell Sword left off. Thorn continues to plot and the Wild to roil, the Galles continue to infiltrate the Albin court, the Black Knight leads an invasion from the north, and the Red Knight returns as Duke of Thrake for the king’s tournament. The tournament, as it turns out, is largely sidelined by bigger matters. The marches are preparing for another great incursion by the Wild, the Albin capital is more interested in what becomes really an invasion by Galles and the imprisonment of the queen, and both parties pull at Gabriel, the Red Knight. As does his mother.
It all has a frenetic, realistic quality, as events outpace characters’ plans. In a less talented writer’s hands the pacing could be ruinous. Cameron keeps things both hurtling along and on the tracks. He also has a talent for ending on a beat. There is a rhythm to his writing.
“Royal Guards in brilliant scarlet escorted a tall young man whose honey-blond hair and elegant features might have been irkish. Indeed, many troubadours claimed irk blood flowed among the people of Occitan. They spoke a different form of Gallish, and they sang songs from Iberia and Ifriquy’a as well as from Alba and Galle. In coastal towns, there were even mosques, tolerated by the princes. Occitan was a land of song, and oranges.
And very skilled knights.”
He is also darkly funny at times:
“Let’s win the battle. Then—we’ll have a command meeting.”
This made her smile. “Unless we’re dead.”
“Right, in which case the meeting is off.”
The Traitor Son Cycle is marked by Loads and Loads of Characters, but it is also very much the story of Gabriel Muriens—at one point described as looking like “an archangel on a binge”—and never more so than in book 3. The unlikeable and, even worse, at times uninteresting character from the first book has become one of the great characters in fantasy and a Power in his own world—a duke of the Empire, his family controlling the breadth of the Wall, commanding a tremendous private army and a fae magician.
No less is the wild, wonderful Wild, full of insectoid boglins, old-school elfish irks, great golden bears with paws that can wield an ax, massive wyverns, and reptilian daemons. It’s massively intriguing, less surreal perhaps than ür-examples of Mordor and the Blight, but much more complex. There is no existing Evil Overlord, at least not yet. It is a land of Powers, and a Power is first a Power and second a target. And the greatest powers of all are dragons, things just short of gods who can appear as mountainous, kaiju-scale reptiles but also any number of other forms and who can change reality with a thought.
The influence of the dragons on the story is something I’ve been worried about since their introduction—how do you maintain narrative tension and the role of the human characters when gods walk amongst them?—but Cameron (again) handles the problem adroitly. Their near omniscience is muddled like a creek when they stick their fingers in. And with great power comes great enemies, and in numbers. Being just god-like has its disadvantages.
Cameron otherwise dances on the razor edge of chaos. We appear to be in one of those dangerous second acts, but Cameron keeps the pedal to the floor. The worst I can say is that the first of many climaxes (hardly more than halfway through) outshines the latter. They weaken a bit as they go. The Black Knight’s role, in the end, ‘tis but a flesh wound, and another seemingly major plot point seems to fizzle. So, when does the next book come out?
Anyway, as it turns out, this third book here is the most engaging in the series for me. I finished it in just a few days, even though it is a lengthy tome (since I was reading it on Kindle, not seeing the physical size probably helped...). I kept going back to reading it when I really should have been doing other things. Also, there was a plot detail near the end that has me glad I picked this up now instead of earlier. The next book comes out next month and I really want to see how this plays out and now I won't have to wait too long! (And for what it's worth, the author is prolific. Even though this series is not finished, you won't have to wait for more than about a year between volumes.)
One thing I am noticing as I go through this series is that each book has a specific task to accomplish. I wasn't sure until I got to nearly the end of this book what its place in the series was, but I actually think it's pretty important. Some conflicts are resolved, some enemies are defeated, there are some victories for the "good guys," but the situation in the world also becomes much more dire and the scale of the conflict becomes grander. So this is definitely not a placeholder novel, but it actually gets things done. There were points in the middle of the book when I wasn't sure what the end game would be, but after finishing, I see how each event contributed. So I think this was well-planned.
I've mentioned the author's attention to detail. I think the strengths of these books are really in the world building. It is detailed and well thought out and lends a feel of authenticity to the narrative that some fantasy authors just don't ever manage to capture.
The writing has improved a great deal from the first book and I expect it will continue to do so in future books. I see many fewer errors and there weren't any repetitive phrases that annoyed me. The writing was still descriptive enough of battle details to give me a good picture of what was going on without boring me. (I get that it takes a long time to put on and take off armor. I get it. I don't need to read that every 10 pages and here, I didn't.)
There was battle in this book, but it seems shorter than in The Fell Sword, for which I am grateful. I rather liked the switch to politics, to see how the characters behaved in a different context, to see new aspects of their relationships. I am sure that the final conflict took most of a day to play out in the world of the book, but it felt quicker than that while I was reading it (for me, this is a good thing; battle scenes are not my favorite). There are a few smaller conflicts leading up to the main one, so if you do like battle and fight scenes, you will not be disappointed.
To me, these books are really not character-driven books. Reflecting back, I do think Gabriel (the Red Knight) went through some interesting transformations in this book, especially in his relationships with others and also in terms of dealing with some of his own physical limitations. I already felt that he was sympathetic, but this made him much more human to me. It was hard to get into the heads of other characters, even though there were some other POVs, but that is to be expected with a book that has such a large cast of characters. (For what it's worth, Gabriel's antagonist Jean de Vrailly was much less irritating in this book than in past novels. He actually became a slight bit sympathetic here and I didn't think that would ever happen...) There were a lot of character deaths, and not just of people I'd consider minor. Some of these I certainly did NOT expect and some of them seemed rather abrupt (but that is not a bad thing in terms of the book -- in war, a life can be snuffed out in an instant and foreshadowing wouldn't make sense in that case).
In the end, if you have made it through the first two books, I would definitely recommend picking this one up as it was my favorite of the three. If you have not yet started this series and you are a fan of military fantasy, with all its gory details, I think you will find something to like here as well (but start with book one).