I picked up SCOURGE OF THE BETRAYER by Jeff Salyards back when it came out in 2012, at the suggestion of a friend (Which friend? Come on, people, I can’t even remember who said what YESTERDAY). Always a fan of the darker side of fantasy, the cover intrigued me. “All Empires crumble. All Kingdoms die.” I mean, to me, that just screams, “Woo, summer beach reading, baby!”
The novel is told from the point of view of Arkamondos, Arki for short, a scribe who has been hired to follow and chronicle the happenings of Captain Braylar Killcoin. Braylar is a member of the Syldoon Empire, a people who have quite the reputation in the world (eating babies and all that). Braylar and his band are rough and vulgar, and Arki provides a nice contrast to them. I really enjoyed seeing the world from his eyes. His point of view provided a fresh outlook that would not have been possible from another’s. It was fun going on this adventure with him, learning about the world as he did, experiencing his first attack, meeting new people. Most of all, we as readers learn things as he does, so the mission Braylar and his men are on remains a mystery that we can puzzle out, making the story even more interesting.
I really enjoyed the characters in this book, both good and bad. Braylar is written in such a way that he is a dark guy, he has a terrible secret about him, yet through Arki’s eyes we see him as a human being. There are several situations where we can see he is a tough person with a lot of blood on his hands, yet he has a heart and a code. Salyards did a great job making him multi-faceted. Another favorite character is Lloi. I loved reading her interactions with Arki, and learning about her story. She seems to be one of those characters that could be a friend. She helps, teases, and is there for one in a pinch.
I admired the way Salyards built tension in this book. It is an adventure story, but at the same time, by building characters the way he did and making them sympathetic (even the roughest guys, by the end, seemed like people I’d like to hang out with…in certain circumstances ;)), he takes readers on an emotional ride as well. Bastard made me cry near the end, and it’s not many books that can do that.
I highly suggest this book to any fantasy reader. There are some awesome lines in it that made me laugh out loud, situations that made me cry, and fights that made me cheer. I can’t wait until I can get my hands on the sequel, VEIL OF THE DESERTERS, available in early June! There is still so much to learn about these characters and the world they live in!
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