Publisher: Angry Robot
Publication date – 5 June 2018
Prepare yourself for dark magic and a powerfully inventive adventure in The Traitor God, one of 2018’s best fantasy debuts from exciting new author Cameron Johnston.
Ten years ago, reviled mind-bending magician Edrin Walker fled his home city of Setharis with demons biting at his heels. On that night, a god died, his mentor disappeared and Edrin’s memories of the events surrounding his exile were erased from his mind. All Edrin remembers is that he made a deal with somebody extremely powerful. In exchange for him leaving the city, this mysterious figure guaranteed the safety and long life of his closest friends.
Edrin has spent the last 10 years wandering the wilderness, living day to day and evading the creatures hunting him. Content with his decision and new life, his exile ends the moment he witnesses the death of his best friend, Lynas. In one terrible night, Lynas was brutally murdered and skinned alive, and Edrin saw every minute of it through their powerful mental link. Now, with nothing left to lose, Edrin will return home, his only intention to burn everyone and everything until he finds the person responsible for his friend’s death.
However, returning to Setharis is a dangerous proposition. Not only is he still being hunted by demons, but the Arcanum, Setharis’s governing body of magicians, will kill him the moment they find out he is still alive. Beyond caring, Edrin will risk everything to get revenge, and woe betide any man, magician, demon or god who gets in his way.
This is an extraordinary first novel from Johnston, who has produced a stylish and highly addictive sword and sorcery fantasy adventure with a morally corrupt protagonist, a great new fantasy setting and a huge number of magical battle sequences.
The Traitor God contains an impressive dark fantasy action story that effortlessly captures the reader’s imagination and attention and drags them through every page of the book. What starts as a revenge investigation and rampage turns into a fight for the future of an entire city, as mysterious forces are unleashed. The story is told solely from the perspective of the protagonist, Edrin, and as a result it has been noticeably infected with his dark humour and well-developed scepticism. The familiar storyline of a hero returning home and finding that everything has changed works well within The Traitor God. Readers will enjoy watching the powerful magician manipulate the new generation of criminals and bystanders who are unfamiliar with what he can do. While the eventual revelation of who is responsible for the murder is a tad predictable, the investigation getting there is amazing, and fans will enjoy seeing the protagonist confront his enemies. The scope of the villain’s evil plot is quite impressive and results in some massive scenes towards the end of the book. I really enjoyed the cunningness and ingenuity of the protagonist and had fun watching him come up with clever solutions to the difficult and unique problems he encounters. There is one amazing scene towards the end of the book when his plan to finish off a powerful antagonist is slowly revealed to the reader. The reveal of the protagonist’s master plan, which is kept hidden from the reader due to magical plot elements, is done perfectly within this scene, and the audience will enjoy the clever ideas and dark humour used within.
The vast majority of the plot of Johnston’s book is set within the city of Setharis, which is controlled by an army of powerful magicians. The city is a great setting for this dark fantasy novel as the protagonist is forced to conduct his investigation through its corrupt and crime-ridden streets. It is clear that Johnston has spent significant time creating Setharis, and Edrin explores vast swathes of it during his adventures. The exploration of the Arcanum is particularly intriguing, and readers will be shown the noticeable differences between the sanctuary of magicians and the dwellings where the city’s poor live. Edrin’s observations about the inequalities and corruption of the Arcanum are unique among the book’s magicians. This allows Johnston to show off the arrogance of the other magicians, which plays into the plot while at the same time endearing Edrin to the reader. The setting of Setharis is an amazing part of this novel, and readers will look forward to returning to it in Johnston’s future works.
One of the best parts of The Traitor God is the sheer amount of exceptional magical and fantasy elements that have been packed into it by the author. Edrin has unique magical mind powers that allow him to control people he encounters, and these are surprisingly dark powers for a fantasy protagonist to have. These powers are intriguing, as they are known and feared throughout Johnston’s fantasy world, and Edrin suffers significant discrimination as a result. The scenes where Edrin uses his mind-bending abilities are well presented by Johnston, as he successfully endeavours to show the effect Edrin’s power has on the other character’s minds.
The other magicians that feature in The Traitor God also have magical powers that catch the reader’s imagination when they are presented in the book. The book features magicians with powers to nullify the magic of other magicians, sniffers who can smell and identify magicians from a distance, magicians who use body enhancement magic to become epic soldiers, and one extremely skilled hydromancer. Johnston has also created some fascinating rules and abilities that affect all of the magicians within the book, including Edrin, and result in some wonderful story elements. A great example of this revolves around the rule that magic permeates every cell of a magician’s body and leaks out of them into items like their clothing or bedding. Johnston uses this fact to great effect throughout the story, as his protagonist is constantly forced to find constructive ways to avoid enemies who can detect his magic. The author has also created memorable descriptions of the way that magicians are forced to access their magical power. Johnston establishes that magicians within The Traitor God have to be careful about the magic they draw into themselves, lest they burn themselves out or go mad with power. There are several scenes where Edrin is forced to draw large amounts of magic into himself to face powerful opponents or save the lives of his friends, and the resultant internal battles to retain control and his sanity are a fantastic part of the narrative.
While Johnston goes into incredible detail about the rules and roles of the magicians of Setharis, he has also included some alternative magical users who do not follow the same rules. The comparison between these two different groups of magic users is quite distinctive, and scenes where they come into conflict with each other are quite destructive and highly enjoyable. Johnston has made sure to include a number of unique demonic creatures the hunt and harry the protagonist. These creatures are quite distinctive, and Johnston cleverly ties their hunting ability into his rules about magical scents and detection. The most memorable magical creature within the book is also the largest, and results in some significant, fast-paced and explosive scenes throughout the book. Overall, the electrifying and distinctive magical and fantasy elements within The Traitor God are one of the book’s most intriguing characteristics and highlight just how imaginative and creative Johnston is.
There are a tremendous number of action-filled sequences throughout the book as the main character and his allies fight criminals, demons, magicians and gods. As a result, The Traitor God will appeal to wide range of readers eager to get their latest dose of intense fantasy action. There are brawls, chases, complex magical duels, fights with monstrous foes, large-scale magical warfare within a city, and even a fight between two gigantic magical constructs. Various elements that Johnston sets up when describing the city of Setharis or the magical abilities and rules of his magician characters often come into play during these scenes, and the author does a great job of winding his own lore into these fantastic sequences. Those drawn to magical and fantasy action and battles will find all their needs and more are met within this book.
In his debut book, Cameron Johnston has shown that he is author with an immense and powerful imagination and the ability to skilfully transcribe his ideas into a powerful narrative. The Traitor God is a fantastic piece of dark fantasy, with some incredibly thrilling action and adventure subplots. This book is a highly recommended read, and Johnston is an author that fantasy fans will need to keep an eye on.