Imperial Traitor by Mark Robson

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Imperial Traitor by Mark Robson

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Part three of the series carries on just where the second left off – with gritty machinations, and lots of action. The close of a series the Bookbag recommends.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: September 2007
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1847380357

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I would call this the endgame of a very interesting game of chess, but that would give a picture that is too black and white. Everything was left completely up in the air by the end of the second of the series, and this volume starts in full flow, dipping pacily into various strands of the story and flowing swiftly through the 360 pages to the conclusion fans of the series would have been eagerly awaiting.

So we have shades of grey on all sides – every quarter has a rotten apple or unreadable character, it seems, be they the stuffy noblemen unhappy with the Emperor that starts this book on the throne, or the completely shady members of the Guild of Assassins, with their underground, magically protected headquarters, or the average legionnaires and servants of the Empire. And as usual, stuck in the middle yet moving fast, are the daring duo of Femke, the superb mistress of disguise and ace secret agent, and Reynik, the young warrior turned assassin.

If the emperor is under threat, all hell could break loose in the country. If the Guild is to be abolished, Reynik certainly needs to be forewarned of several factors. If Femke is to get the job done, while avoiding the evil assassin Shalidar’s vengeance on her, she will have to dig deeper than before and get quite unfortunately used to killing strangers in the process. If Shalidar is intent on getting a shoe-in to the power of the throne, then he might just find none able to stand in his way.

Unfortunately for our heroes, all those ‘ifs’ are most definite certainties. Fortunately for us readers, they only provide a meaty and quite rollicking adventure. As I say, the reader is blasted right into the action, making this book quite a daft choice for anyone to begin the series with – you might not need the first to embellish this volume but you certainly need the middle tome to know what’s what. Although the way the adventure spreads out of that big bang is one of the very minor flaws I could pick on in the book.

Robson uses a lot of different strands to his story, which is of course to be encouraged, but the telling, which jumps from one to another with little regard for chronology, really does sacrifice coherence for drama, and while the dramatic element is welcome I was shadowed by a feeling things weren’t quite working out with the story-line and points were amiss here and there. A minor flaw, but a little unsettling.

Similarly, the way the trilogy weaves upon itself seemed a little too tricksy at times. Was there any real need for Calvyn, the young magician acolyte, to have had a cameo in the first book? The world of this fantasy series – refreshingly involved in politics of power, espionage and so on as opposed to beasty-slaying and artefact-fetching – is nicely rounded and complete in itself, without circuitous elements revisiting old times.

I perhaps shouldn’t mention such personal quibbles in a general review, and could never do so without mentioning that the writing is quite as compelling as before, with the story rolling swifter than ever through all imaginable threats – and several others – before the ending. Surprises are still layered upon shocks by this very talented author, who might not be the most commercial of teen fantasy writers, with this series’ enjoyment in affairs of the state and political dealings, but certainly knows how to piece together a complex plot of many facets and get some way towards a complete gem.

I still think the flaws would force this from the crown jewels, however (and I’ll stop the metaphor there, don’t worry). Such are the twists and turns that I got a little jaded by them here – too many people are resurrected for further surprises, and when it came to the librarians moving dead silently I was expecting them to turn into something they didn’t. What happened to Femke half-recognising the foxy voice?

Also the Shakespearean styling of the build-up to the conclusion (the play’s the king… and all that) dropped out of the way for a final scene that, with the much stronger use of magic in this volume, brought the series far closer towards the mainstream of teen fantasy than it had gone before. I’m not sure if that was a good thing or not.

Finally for me I was expecting a little too much from this final book, and compared to the twisty depths of the past adventures I found the rush through just a few days here to the conclusion not as satisfying, and as a result the structure of the whole trilogy didn’t have such a nice appearance as I had previously thought.

There I go again sounding dreadfully negative. The book is still an interesting one, and the strengths of the writing in the first two books will allow many to escape any minor problems I found with the book. I was never unhappy in reading the ending to the story (well, as firmly as it is concluded…). I would never suggest I would not appreciate a further book in this world, but the author has branched away with an imminent quartet of dragon quest-styled books, for possibly a younger audience than the 10-14 I suggest for this Imperial trilogy. For which I wish him great success – his entertaining but flawed series here ends with a read fans will still like a lot, and which the Bookbag still recommends.

Our thanks to Mark Robson for sending the set to us to review.

Buy Imperial Traitor by Mark Robson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Imperial Traitor by Mark Robson at

Buy Imperial Traitor by Mark Robson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Imperial Traitor by Mark Robson at


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