Science fiction and fantasy
A Sorcerer's Treason
by Sarah Zettel
In Isavalta, the Dowager Empress holds most of the power, but she's paranoid and sees enemies everywhere. She is convinced that her daughter-in-law, Ananda, is plotting to allow an invasion from her motherland of Hastinapura. The Dowager thinks Ananda is a sorceress who schemes constantly to destroy Isavalta and to make her son, the emperor, her puppet. The emperor has been robbed of his mind by a spell. Meanwhile great powers, taking the form of animals, make it unsafe to travel in certain areas of the country or to wander off the beaten track.
A Sorcerer's Treason doesn't stray too far from the beaten track of regular fantasy fare itself. We have the heroine, put upon and unaware of her own huge talents but full of spirit. The villain, big into politics and using people to get his own way. The love interest, honest and dependable as a brick. Much of the conflict is caused by people misunderstanding each other, and this sometimes spoils the dramatic tension because it's obvious how things will be resolved.
At just under 600 pages, it's a good job the writing is good enough to engage readers throughout. The characters are sympathetic, and even the villians have good reasons for acting as they do. This is a competent piece of storytelling, and enjoyable while it lasts. It's a gentle fantasy full of touchy-feely romantic escapism. Battles are usually won by coming to understand the truth of one's emotions rather than by the traditional fantasy method of hacking your enemy's head off or blasting them with fiery spells. But there's nothing really new here, and nothing that sticks in the mind for a long time after reading the book.
Sarah Zettel uses a tried and tested formula to tell a story that will appeal to lovers of romantic fantasy. Don't expect to read something groundbreaking, genre-busting or shockingly new. Yet it's no less absorbing for being somewhat conventional. A Sorcerer's Treason is sword 'n' sorcery in the comfort zone and, for the most part, without the sword.
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