In a world where writing disappears when the author dies, 22-year-old Cael Oberlan watches the last gasping breaths of his best friend. He pulls a scrap of paper out of his pocket as his friend’s signature fades. Cael only wants vengeance for his friend and to create a reality where he no longer has to bow before any man. 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 the people he is fighting to free.
As nephew of the King, 24-year-old Emil Trestinsen should be a hero. He should already hear his name echoing in celebration in the streets of the capital. In a young life already full of disappointment, the lack of recognition for ridding the kingdom of “Ruinous” Lorcen Oberlan may prove to 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 rightful place as the next governor of the rebels.
When 18-year-old 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 bring an end to this bloody war and be strong 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 difficult decisions no one should have to make. It is a race against time and death as handwriting continues to disappear, erasing the contracts and historical records necessary for peaceful negotiations.
The Traitors We Are is a wonderful first entry of a series with an intriguing premise, all writing fades when the author dies. People carry slips of paper with signatures of their loved ones so they will immediately know if they’ve been killed, which is at once a source of comfort and of great anxiety. These are also the feelings the book gave me while I was reading. This novel is heavily character focused and alternated between sweet moments and bitter betrayals, so you never knew what any given character was going to do next. They feel like very normal people doing their best in the situations they find themselves in and are the definition of morally grey. The character development is done very well, there was one character in particular I remember hating as soon as he showed up, that I wound up empathizing with by the end of the book. This does bring me to the one critique I have of the book. Many characters changed personally over the course of the novel, and it was a bit too much change for too many characters for it to be entirely believable for me. I nevertheless enjoyed reading each POV, I never found myself dreading reading a POV and wishing we were back with someone else. I also had a hard time choosing a favorite character because of how well they were all developed.
The premise is a big part of the reason I picked up this book, and I was not disappointed. I enjoyed seeing the effects this has on the world that we saw in this book, and hope we get to see even more in the future entries. I also hope we get to see more of the magic that plainly exists in this world, but is not explored much in this first novel. I think the teasers for the magic were done perfectly and in no way detract from this novel, but they definitely left me wanting to know more. This was a strong debut novel from Roberti that kept pulling me in for more. I think many readers will find what they love in this novel.