Traitor's Knot, by Janny Wurts

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Traitor's Knot: When will Arithon ever win?

This is the penultimate book in the Alliance of Light Arc of the series, and sets up the finale of the Arc with Stormed Fortress, which is now available in the United Kingdom, Austrailia and New Zealand through Harper Collins. There is, as yet, no North American publisher for this series with the demise of Meisha Merlin earlier in 2007, but those of us poor sods in North America can buy this book for about $30.00 (CDN$ and US$ are at parity:D) including shipping from Amazon.co.uk. It is in trade paperback format (no hardcover or mass market editions yet).

This book is set immediately after Arithon's trial in Kewar tunnel in the previous book Peril's Gate, and he has learned, to some extent, to master the curse within him, and he has regained his mage talent. He sets up to begin to discredit Lysaer's false religion in the southern lands of the continent of Paravia. However, the cult of necromancers that has infiltrated the Alliance of Light becomes a more pressing danger, and the pressures on the Fellowship of Seven force them to conscript Arithon to deal with the crisis. Perhaps at the cost of not only his life, but his soul.

There is also an interesting crisis with the Koriani witches, as per usual, as they continue to meddle in everyone else's plans to their own mysterious ends.

I have read that some have complained that Wurts' writing is too complex, but that is why I like this series. It is adult-level, intelligent fantasy, with a deep moral core to the story, and an excellent illustration of how might is not always, and in fact is rarely, right. I find Wurts' style very artistic, as it does not display the laziness of modern novelists, and she uses a huge vocabulary that leads to a depth of writing that is uncommon in this day and age. This being said, Janny could, I think, have written this third Arc (The Alliance of Light) in fewer novels, however, the complex sub-plots would have not been given proper attention, and the wonderful tapestry-feel that you get from this series would have suffered lamentably.

Wurts' main themes are of humans v. environment, of justifying the use of violence to achieve some noble end (i.e. it rarely works), of the use of propaganda and lies by organized religion, whether or not the basic tenets are true, the importance of the autonomy of individual beings, and also other themes. There are some excellent, and unintended, parallels between Lysaer's Alliance of Light and Goerge W. Bush's War on Terror. That the War on Terror occurred after Wurts created the Alliance of Light in her fiction is a wonderful indicator of this series' relevance.

The whole series is five star, so it is unfair to rate any one book, as they do not stand alone, because the reader needs the previous novels to orient them in the current one.

I strongly recommend this series to the fantasy fan who is interested in something other than a light escape. Start with Curse of the Mistwraith, and work your way through all the books or you will be lost. Also, this ensures that there is lots of wonderful and inspired writing for the discerning reader to enjoy. It still boggles my mind that we in North America have been denied a decent marketing of this series, which is easily, in my opinion, the best ongoing series in modern epic fantasy. It is easily in the same class as GRR Martin, Steven Erikson, and Guy Gavriel Kay.

I give this book 4.5 stars of five, because the next one, Stormed Fortress, is better by a bit.
 
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