In a world where writing disappears when the author dies, Cael Oberlan watches the last gasping breaths of his best friend. As his friend’s signature fades, he pulls a scrap of paper out of his pocket and a name disappears. Cael only wants vengeance for his friend; however, the nagging suspicion that his father, who started this war, hasn’t given him the whole story about his role in this conflict threatens to unravel everything he ever thought he knew about himself and his people fighting for freedom.
As the nephew of the King of Harfel, Emil Trestinsen should be a hero. He should already hear his name echoing the streets of the capital. In a young life full of disappointment, a lack of recognition for ridding the kingdom of “Ruinous” Lorcen Oberlan may be the final push he needs to seize his destiny. He will prove his worth to his family and his nation. He will end this rebellion and take his place as the next governor of the rebels.
When Merily Oberlan receives letters from the frontlines, and the top one is blank, she is devastated to realize one of her loved ones has died in battle. She is determined to help end the war and be vital for her people, a cultural and religious minority in the kingdom of Harfal.
What started as a simple rebellion transforms into a complicated web of lies, betrayal, and decisions no one should have to make. It’s a race against death as handwriting disappears, erasing the contracts and historical records necessary for peaceful negotiations.
Michael Roberti’s The Traitors We Are is a multiple-POV fantasy novel based on a world where writing disappears once the author dies. The book provides high magic mixed with gritty undertones, political intrigue, and world-building woven through a world of weak treaties and hungry power brokers. The plot revolves around peace negotiations between two warring parties and evolves into conspiracies on a much grander scale. Witches, court intrigue, and questions stalk the edges of this fantasy novel, giving me shades of grimdark, epic, and military fantasy.
The three main POVs, siblings Cael and Merily Oberlan, are part of a loose confederation called the Reach. At the same time, Emil Trenstinen, a noble, is part of the conquering/colonizing Harfal faction that bears the brunt of the story and book. Still, other POVs mingled throughout the fantasy novel, fleshing out the conflict between the two main parties, but as my reading continued, there became so many more plot points sprinkled on top of the two main antagonist groups, The Reach and Harfel.
“Concealed daggers are the enemies of peace.”
The story twists and entertains between the three POVs throughout the book as the author provides multiple perspectives of the same events. This part of the writing offers glimpses of what is to come but leaves the reader pushing to unwind the knots Mr. Roberti has twisted for them. All the POVs felt human and genuine in their actions and motivations.
The Reach’s culture feels alive and thick with lore and history, and Harfal’s culture is there, but it will be more fleshed out as the book series expands (yes, I like the Reach better than Harfal). I’ve only spoken of two main groups portrayed in this book, as several other factions are at play, including merchants, mobsters, and a group that, as I found, holds more power than most will understand until the end of the book. The intrigue and politics drove me to continue to read, and the character growth carried on in each chapter.
“Violence erupted without regard for who watched. Weapons met, and there were cries of battle.”
Mr. Roberti’s action sequences are page-turning and well done, with detail and emotion, and there are multiple times when I enjoyed the prose making a note of a sentence or quote. I could feel the inspiration of the book series from A Song of Fire and Ice and The First Law Trilogy come alive in the prose and characters. The small group of soldiers attacking a group of witches (spell casters) as they burnt people alive was fascinating and intense.
As the story unfolded, I turned the pages faster in an urge to see what happened next. The pacing was excellent, and I looked for more moments in my day to consume another chapter. The last fourth of the book spins out of control, leaving me ready for the next book as I cheered for my favorite characters, POVs from the Reach. It’s what I want from a fantasy novel: engagement, connection, and the odd sense of loving and hating the villains in a book and feeling slightly guilty about it. When I finished my reading, I knew I wanted more. How does this whole writing disappearing come about and wait? Who is that character plotting to conquer everything? I now have to wait for the follow-up, and Mr. Roberti can’t write fast enough for me.
I read the 1st edition of The Traitors We Are, book 1 of The Crown and Tide series, and with most first editions, some slight formatting errors occurred but will be adjusted in future editions. I recommend The Traitors We Are to any fantasy reader for its spinning plot, POV-style writing, and character growth. The cover is intriguing and the mirror quality of it plays into the scheming that remain inside the book. Pick it up if you are in the mood for an indie fantasy that hits those military, and conspiracy vibes mixing in character development and world building and know there is more on the way.