This novel is about espionage, spies, and even a wee bit of love in this light fantasy novel.
Sage Fowler, our main character, loves knowledge and teaching, but she’s a female whose parents have died in a world where women have few choices. Her uncle took her in after her father died; she doesn’t remember her mother much. Her aunt treats her well and Sage loves her cousins, especially teaching them. She dislikes her uncle, although I don’t know if it’s warranted. When he informs her that she will be married off by the matchmaker, Sage is far from happy. After ruining the interview, Sage becomes the matchmaker’s apprentice because she is so smart. She observes everything and comes to accurate conclusions. A huge event--the Concordium--is about to occur where the matchmaker matches a large number of girls from upper-crust families. Sage will be the spy--she needs to learn as much as possible about the girls and the men to help determine who should be with whom.
In the midst of moving girls across the lands to the party, political intrigue is afoot. There is a duke who is plotting a takeover. The military doesn’t have all the details, but they do know that they are finding bands of the enemy about. Captain Alexander Quinn and his men Casseck, Luke Gramwell, and Ash Carter encounter one group, but their mistake costs the military knowledge, so they are re-assigned to escort the ladies to the Concordium. They quickly realize that this trip may not be as safe as they had hoped. They must now protect the girls from danger and hope help arrives soon. They will also need a spy, but who could possible be brave enough and smart enough to determine motivations of so many people?
I really enjoyed this novel. The character development and relationships were believable and the pace kept me turning pages. The author is clever in her managing of the spies and spying. I especially loved that it was a stand-alone; then, I saw on Amazon that it is a trilogy. Sigh. Therefore, you can look forward to more spying and adventure I would imagine in the following books. We hope to have this novel in the library at the beginning of next school year.
Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
"The phrasing annoyed Sage. As long as she was pretty and in a good mood, her husband would love her? People needed love most when they weren’t at their best."
You might be wondering why in the world did I give this book 4 stars. After all, many people have given it 1 star because it supposedly reinforces girl hate and racism. Basically, the majority of the YA community claims that The Traitor’s Kiss is a sexist and whitewashed retelling of Mulan. I generally respect the opinions of my fellow readers, but I think that the hate surrounding this book is predominantly subjective. Hopefully, my review will encourage others to be open-minded and give this book a chance.
The Traitor’s Kiss is less like Mulan and more like a Jane Austen novel, such as Pride and Prejudice. Like the latter, this book features an empowered female protagonist who lives in a patriarchal world where marriage makes the world go round. Unlike her peers, Sage is not eager to be a mere political pawn. Deemed unfit for marriage because of her “lack of femininity,” she becomes a spy for the most sought after matchmaker in the kingdom. Sage’s story becomes more intriguing when an enigmatic soldier named Quinn asks her to help him eradicate a political conspiracy.
I was able to read this book rather quickly because I was engrossed by the plot. For me, there was hardly any dull moment, even at the beginning of the novel. The perfect balance between romance and political intrigue piqued my interest. I normally read two to five books alternately, so I was quite surprised that this book monopolized my attention. The climax of the book was particularly intense and well-executed. A lot of things were happening to many characters, but the author managed to connect them in such as way that was delightfully comprehensible.
I’ve always been fond of empowered females, so Sage was easy to like. As her name implies, Sage was a very wise/erudite character. She loved reading, gathering information, and sharing her knowledge with others. Her keen intuition definitely made her a force to be reckoned with. It even came to a point that no one could keep secrets from her. At least not for a long time. xD
As I’ve mentioned earlier, many readers have expressed their indignation for the girl hate in this book, which apparently depicts femininity in a negative way. With that in mind, it is true that Sage and her peers said mean things about each other. However, I believe that this could be viewed as a depiction of society in general, specifically of the struggle between the upper and lower classes. Throughout the novel, both men and women looked down on Sage because of her status as a commoner. In other words, the mean girls in this book weren’t naturally mean because of their sex. Furthermore, like the male population of our own world, not all females are inherently or totally good. I myself have met my fair share of mean girls (and boys). Thus, please don’t judge the author for adding a touch of reality to her book. For heaven’s sake, you don’t have to take things personally!
The next aspect of this book I enjoyed was the absence of instalove. Sage and her love interest had an “organic,” slow-building relationship. I loved that there weren’t any cheesy sparks or internal monologues about fate, meeting their other half, or whatever overrated concept. This is going to sound vague, but I also liked their relationship because it was reminiscent of The Kiss of Deception. It’s no wonder Mary E. Pearson (one of my favorites authors) blurbed this book. That plot twist messed with my mind for more than an hour!
Finally, although this book is infamous for being racist, I actually appreciated its diversity. I honestly couldn’t understand why people described it as whitewashed when many of the characters (both protagonists and antagonists) were people of color. The Kimisar, the secondary antagonists, were indeed “dark-skinned.” However, it is important to note that the main antagonist was “light-skinned.” In other words, both “dark-skinned” and “light-skinned” people were depicted as capable of doing evil. Hence, “equality” was achieved, and you don’t have to be so triggered. :l
Nevertheless, the haters were right about one thing: skin tone was unnecessarily (and sometimes ridiculously) described in this book. Here are some examples:
1. "Kimisar were even darker than Demorans from Aristel, and this close he almost faded into the shadows."
2. "He had the darker skin of an Aristelan as well as the nearly black hair. She’d never be able to match his color even if she stayed outdoors all summer."
As you can see, the word choice sounds mocking, if not condescending. I would have given this book a higher rating if the colored characters had other distinguishing characteristics worth mentioning. Whether we like it or not, political correctness is imperative nowadays. Sadly, it wasn’t consistently shown in this novel. I wasn’t personally triggered, but I was bothered by how the descriptions made me want to laugh. :3
Overall, I encourage you to read The Traitor’s Kiss with an open mind. It does fall short in regards to its emphasis on skin tone, but it really doesn’t deserve to be hated. Gleaning upon the strengths I mentioned, I can honestly say that Erin Beaty is a promising author. I look forward to reading her future works. 🙂
I loved reading this book. My interest was high from the beginning but it was captured completely as soon as Quinn, Cass, Ash, Robert, Gram and the guys came into the story. I knew I wanted to go on adventures with them. I fell in love with Quinn right away. The chemistry between mouse and starling was very strong. I am surprised by the low ratings I have read. They don't have anything to do with the story, the strategy, the excitement, the fun of reading this book. Being a librarian, I know there are many who will love reading this.
I do hope the next books focus on romance for some of the other guys and don't take away from the strength of the romance in this book or put it in question. I only had one moment of annoyance with the character who makes an obviously flawed decision but it was slight. The ending felt a bit rushed and it leaves me a little in doubt of the strength of the love story (see my hopes for the next book), and one of my favorite characters died and broke a little of my heart. Those are my only negatives.I look forward to reading more.
There is some passionate kissing and touching but no further than that. Language is ok, and the violence is strong, but not excessive.
Debut author Erin Beaty's The Traitor's Kiss is a pretty decent fantasy for YA. It's a broadly-drawn fantasy romance that ties together marriage contracts and military maneuvers! Admittedly some of the novel can fall a bit flat - especially in the introduction - and the pacing can become more of an issue as the story progresses. There are some high-stakes fun and entertaining moments to Sage's story, but it's also one flawed in its premise, execution, and characterization. Very much a debut novel, this first in a planned trilogy reads like a mashup of Mulan and The Winner's Curse - but with some problematic elements and some original plot-trickery all its own.
The characters in the pages of The Traitor's Kiss are.. interesting. Some are likeable, some are confusing, and some are rather ill-defined; most secondary (i.e. non love interest) characters feel rather underdeveloped. As the main, Sage receives the bulk of the novel's focus and is the most dimensional person. She both defies and fulfills expected roles for women in fantasy. She subverts genre tropes and also follows them. Her worth is tied to marriage prospects but her keen eye for detail and tactics help the military in key situations. Sage is not always nice and has some troublesome characteristics, but she's an engaging character because she is flawed and realistic.
I had conflicting emotions about The Traitor's Kiss as I read my way into it. At times the ship and the spying fun and plot creativity made me feel around 4-stars-worth of enjoyment. But the technical issues encountered in the writing and the appropriative nature of the plot tempered my feelings to.... 3ish? There are some racial undertones that require dissection and discussion, as well as the fact that this definitely seems to be a white-washed Mulan. There's also some harmful tropes to be found in how Sage regards other girls -- especially ones who happen to like being feminine. Sage befriends at least one girl over the course, but a novel cannot boast a "strong" heroine if its at the expense of every other female character in the novel.
Some of the plotting is good and some of it is less so, but the author is clever, I will give her that. The worldbuilding is shallow and often lazy -- there's no real sense of time, place or history to Demora. The writing has issues with clarity -- often at key plot points which is distracting and can make the "reveal" of what happened hard to understand. There are some slight Jane Austen similarities here but The Traitor's Kiss is much more along the lines of a romance/fantasy than a mix of magic and Regency.
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. I originally thought it would be a Fantasy book, but in reality, there was no fantasy whatsoever. The MC was humorous and amusing, and her love interest was charming and brooding. However, the plot was a no, no. I couldn't connect at all. I felt like an after thought. To be honest, I hardly remember why kings were fighter about. It was as compelling as the author thought it would be
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***
The Traitor's Kiss by Erin Beaty
Book One of the Traitor's trilogy
Publisher: Imprint (Macmillan)
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
An obstinate girl who will not be married.
A soldier desperate to prove himself.
A kingdom on the brink of war.
With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.
As the girls' military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.
What I Liked:
This is probably going to end up ending the most mixed of mixed reviews of all time. I feel both extremes of the spectrum, with this book. On the one hand, there were parts of the story that I really enjoyed. On the other hand, there were parts of the story and the book in general that I abhorred. I recognize some problematic content, but mostly it was the boring quality of the writing and storytelling that dragged my enjoyment - and the rating - straight down.
Sage Fowler was taken in by her uncle, a nobleman, at a young age. Now sixteen, she is not marriageable, and she becomes apprenticed to a matchmaker. Sage detests matchmaking, but Mistress Rodelle - Darnessa - is extremely astute and a master manipulator when it comes to making matches. Sage learns how to be crafty and astute from Darnessa - more than she already was. Sage isn't working for Darnessa for very long before she, Darnessa, and a bevy of eligible noble ladies begin the journey to nation's capital for a large event to see the noblewomen married. Escorting them are highly trained young soldiers, led by Captain Alexander Quinn. Alex has a secret undercover mission to accomplish while escorting the ladies, one that Sage must not know about. But he decides to recruit Sage when he realizes how clever and observant she is. Navigating the web of deceit and scheming that surrounds them proves critical, because they uncover a plot that is on its way to toppling the kingdom.
This book is written in third-person, limited to several POVs. There is Sage's, and Alex's, and several others', though Sage's and Alex's are the most important. The chapters do not alter between characters. I personally really enjoy third-person narratives (most of the time), so this worked for me. Especially with all of the deceit going on (on both Sage and Alex's part, to the world and to each other).
Speaking of deceit, it was cleverly done, by Beaty - this very particular thing that she did that I won't talk about more specifically. She had me fooled for a little, but I figured it out long before the major hints were dropped. Mostly it was hope, and not quite "figuring it out". You'd have to read the book to see what I mean!
I had a hard time caring about Sage (and I'll take about her in the next section), but I did like Alex a lot. Alex is the first son of the General, and he is already a captain, at twenty-one years old. He is young but very mature, intelligent, clever, and selfless. He commands the attention and respect of everyone who meets and knows him, and with good reason. He kind of reminds me of Brigan (from Kristin Cashore's Fire, a.k.a. my favorite book of all time). He's quiet, alert, calculating, and perceptive, and he is brave and selfless and always concerned about protecting and accounting for everyone else. Alex is a good man and a good person, and I am in awe of all of the clever planning and scheming he did throughout this book.
The politics and the scheming were a lot to handle at times, so I commend Beaty on doing a fairly decent job of packing so much of it into a YA book. To be honest, I'm going to complain about how boring this book was in the next section, and that boredom is partly due to the amount of political "stuff" the author has going on (maybe too much). But on the other hand, it was cool that she went so far with everything political.
What else... I guess I liked the romance. No love triangle, and the romance is kind of neat, if you think about it (I won't say too much). I liked how little drama there was - especially since there was potential for A LOT of drama towards the end of the book. Again, no love triangle, and probably no love triangle in the future, though I don't want to speak too quickly. This latest crop of YA debut authors reaaaaaally seem to like introducing love triangles in book two.
The book ends very well, though one could argue that most book ones of a trilogy end really well. It's a good ending, and I liked it! In general, I liked the story, though it's not super original. Once I got past the first one hundred pages or so (maybe one hundred and fifty), I got a little more invested in the story and I wanted to know more. But I also had issues with the book - see below.
What I Did Not Like:
Ohhhhh boy. This might take a while. Or it might not. It's 2:30 AM and this review should have been posted two and a half hours ago, so, this section might be brief in comparison to how much I really want to discuss.
The beginning of this book was incredibly boring. Friends, I usually muscle through anything. I power through boring like nobody's business. Slow start? No problem! I will keep reading because I believe in you and your book and I want to give it a fair shot. Slow starts are the worst (or one of the worst) but they almost never deter me. But, friends. I almost stopped reading this book, after about one hundred pages.
Most of you know me well by now - I don't stopped reading. I don't DNF. I always finish books I start. And yet, I was so close to setting this one aside (and arguably never coming back to it, because who has the time for that). The first one hundred pages are so incredibly boring! My goodness, they are the reason why I am writing this review so late! I didn't care for Sage, or her tragic backstory (which doesn't really add up to me, by the way), or her pity-party in which she doesn't want to get married or be forced to do blah blah blah. I also didn't really care about whatever scouting mission Alex was on, because it was a real snoozefest.
Things started to look up when Alex and his soldiers begin escorting the caravan of ladies to the Concordium in the capital, to hopefully become brides of lords and nobles. Then things start to get a little more interesting - though still boring. I think I was fully invested when they reach a duke's home, because that is when action actually starts to happen.
Is this a slow-burn type of story? Maybe? But it took way too long to get to any type of "good stuff", especially for a YA fantasy novel. Sure, Sage is supposed to be some great intellectual, and Alex is supposed to be a very clever soldier, so you'd expect a lot of mind games and internal action happening. But there was too much thinking and politics and it was incredibly boring.
Keep in mind, I usually love the intellectual mind games and the politics. But in this book? Snooze.
Also, the fact that this book is a YA high fantasy baffled me a little, mostly because I had a hard time grasping the world-building. I could barely keep track of the names of the countries, let alone figure out who was an enemy country and who wasn't. The author did a poor job of conveying the world to readers. I don't even know what nation Alex is from and is serving! Demora? I don't think it's Kimisara because I'm 80% sure Kimisara is the enemy country. Maybe? See!
The author also had me a little lost when it came to the skin tones and physical descriptions. I think she was trying to be purposefully vague AND make sure we knew that she had some diversity going on, in her book. But I was just so confused. So is Alex some sort of golden/tanned-skinned guy? Mixed heritage? Sage is pale? The enemies are "dark"-skinned? It bothered me how often the author used the same word to describe skin tone (dark, dark, dark), though I suppose there isn't anything flagrant about the word.
I didn't really like Sage - well, I liked her sometimes, and other times I didn't. I didn't like her at all, in the beginning. She is incredibly stuck up! She grew up with poor parents who let her run around in the forest and become one with nature (I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea), so when her uncle of genteel birthing takes her in with his wife and small children, Sage is not amenable to the domestic lifestyle and refuses to get married. What's more, she really looks down on the ladies that are sent to the matchmaker to get married. Who are you to judge young ladies who want a matchmaker to help them secure their future? Who are you to judge whether they are frivolous or shallow because they like gorgeous dresses and looking pretty? Sage is such a snob! Look, I have nothing against girls who don't like what are known as typically "girly" things (dresses, hair, giggling about boys, whatever), but I also have nothing against girls who DO like those things. Sage could be a little less judgmental? Read: a lot less.
But she sort of grew on me, as the story went on. She is so nosy and way too intrusive for her own good, but I don't deny that she is smart and occasionally capable, and realistic in many cases. Like, she knows she isn't suddenly an expert in defending herself after having one lesson in fighting.
Originally, this book was pitched as a Mulan retelling. Now I think they're pitching it as some sort of Jane Austen inspired novel. In any case, the Mulan retelling aspect is garbage, and I don't know why the author and publisher were selling this one as that. Helllooooooooo, whitewashing! And I'm really not understanding the Jane Austen pitch (and yes, I've read enough Jane Austen to know).
Tl;dr - the book was boring and not just in the beginning, though mostly in the beginning. There are problematic aspects, there are annoying aspects, and I didn't always like the female protagonist. And I was confused about the world-building.
Would I Recommend It:
I'm going to go ahead and say no, I don't recommend this book. Who even knows what kind of mess the author will make, in book two? There was NO HINT of love triangle in this book, but I'm pretty much going to just brace myself for the introduction of some mysterious hot prince or something, who will fall in love with Sage (and of course she'll return those feelings even though she has found her one and only, in this book). This book wasn't impressive, it wasn't a big hit like I expected, and it's a trilogy written by a debut author. Yeah, I don't recommend it.
2.5 stars. I think I'll round up to 3 stars because there were aspects of this book that I really liked (Alex, the romance, the general story, the amount of insane deception going on). But it really wasn't anything special, and there were enough problems to irritate me. I might read the rest of the series? I might not? I think I need to see the synopsis of book two to make that decision.
I was originally interested in this book as it was marketed as a Mulan retelling. however upon starting it, the entire story was white washed and came out very prejudice. Judging from past reviews, i noticed tons of others thought the same thing. If you can even get past this, the plot is low and very boring. The characters are one dimensional and do no grow. I DNF this because of how discriminatory the book was.
Actually enjoyed this book quite a bit. There were enough twists and turns to keep me engaged with the story. I did not think that the writing was racist at all. I look forward to the second in the series.
The Traitor’s Kiss is offensive and incredibly disappointing. Right off the bat, the readers are exposed to racism and misogyny. Adding to the slow pace, the shifts between POVs being rather abrupt and confusing, the lack of world-building, and the disinteresting plot, it is very difficult to find something good about this book.
Erin Beaty still has a lot to learn, both as a writer and as a human being. Her debut novel fails to meet all expectations, makes use of the dark skinned aggressor trope, has girls hating on other girls, and fails to capture the reader’s attention with an interesting and engaging plot. So while I thank the publisher for the sending me ARC, I have to give this just 1 star.
First off, addressing the racism. Like all YA Fantasy books, there are kingdoms on the brink of war. In this particular case, we have the Kimisar and the Demora. The Kimisar often are described as just ‘dark’, and are usually seen by other characters as being uncivilized/savages. It’s reminiscent of the problems found in other YA books released this year, as you can read here.
This also contributes to the lack of world-building. Beaty is very vague when it comes to the kingdoms’ culture and traditions. Her descriptions mostly fall on superficial aspects like clothing and, again, saying POC characters are ‘darker’ than others. This makes it difficult to understand and care about the conflict between kingdoms.
There is also a lot of girls hating on other girls in this book. Sage, our main character, finds work as a matchmaker, and her job is pretty much to pair people off into marriage. Every girl that goes through Sage’s interviews is beaten down and hated on. Sage is very much a ‘I’m not like other girls’ type of character, and that’s just sad and extremely frustrating and angering.
The abrupt shifts in POV between the main characters are also a problem for me There are no chapter headers in the ARC copy, so it is super jarring going from Sage’s POV to an entire different character voice and back again. Hopefully this won’t be a problem in the physical copies. But, when another POV character is introduced, things get extremely confusing. With the way things are written, once the third character comes into play, I actually had to reread the previous three chapters to understand what was happening.
The spying and romance could have been interesting, but all the problems mentioned above contribute to making this a rather tiring and angering read. It’s so very difficult to care about what’s going on when there’s blatant racism and misogyny every other chapter, staring you right in the face. So in the end, The Traitor’s Kiss is a very hard no from me.
I'm not really sure what to say about this book. I found it hard to keep the characters and information straight. Partially because the same person is often called by many different names--first name, last name, title, role, another name. This all seemed like sloppy writing to me and left me confused a lot of the time. It does end up that some of this is an intentional part of the plot, which made me feel a little better about it (but I was still confused by some aspects of the plot, even at the very end).
Overall, the story was enjoyable enough, but I did feel it kind of dragged on and had some flaws. I wasn't a huge fan of Sage's character and there were quite a few sexy scenes that I could have done without. It does look like this is a part of a series, but I can't really see why more books are necessary, to be honest. The story was mostly tied up by the end.
Racism and Gender Bashing
About halfway through reading this, I noticed the other reviews that talked about racism and gender bashing. The only thought I'd had up to that point was that I wasn't getting a clear visualization of who the characters were or what they looked like, so I was a little surprised. After that I tried to pay attention to those to things (not excessively, but just to see if I could see what others were talking about). As far as racism goes, I honestly didn't see that. The main, male character and love interest of the heroine is described as having dark skin and dark eyes. The prince is also described this way. The heroine is described as have lighter hair and freckles. The villain is described as having blue eyes. Needless to say, I didn't see them demonizing a certain race--they were all a mix (the only description I noticed for the outsider, bad guy army was that they were tattooed). The one thing I will note is that this story did remind me a lot of Mulan, but it is not set in China and the characters are not Chinese. Now, this may have not been meant to be a Mulan retelling and the similarities may just be coincidental. Who knows? I'm going to give the author the benefit of the doubt and say it wasn't intentional.
As far as the gender bashing goes, I would say there is a bit of that. Sage seems to have an air of superiority and that seems to be based on the fact that she doesn't care about the things that the other girls do. There is one female character in particular that is painted in a very negative light because she wears makeup, dresses up, and tries too hard. Sometimes that kind of thing can be funny, but it was more looked down on with distain here. I wasn't a huge fan of it and, while it did affect the way I felt about the book as a whole, there were only a few instances and it wasn't effort for me to write it off completely.
The story follows Sage. An orphan with no desire to ever marry and a great talent for observing people found herself a professional match makers apprentice. Marrying through a match maker being the status symbol of the rich and powerful.
I had not read anything about the book before hand. I had no clue of the story line or even genre. And what a great surprise I had. I absolutely loved it!!!!
The writing is easy to read.
The storyline relatively plausible.
There were perfect amounts of action vs love, with enjoyable characters and great plot twists.
I really liked Sage. She is everything you look for in a female heroine. She was believable and real, ruthless yet thoughtful and dangerous but selfless. In fact, she was not annoying in the slightest unlike the usual female characters found in YA at the moment.
(I am furiously typing, aware that I am rambling and probably making no sense but there are so many great things I want to say about this book)
The addition of Clare was a brilliant move as it gave me a chance to see Sage's softer side.
The story was fast passed yet not over complicated. There was never a dull moment and I was never bored. I was hooked throughout, which is probably how I managed to finish it in two sittings.
The story was entertaining enough without any twists or turns, however the did provide another great element to the story that made me rethink everything I had just read.
My only fault with the book would be, why was it so short?
I don't know if was just me power reading but the whole journey to the concordium seemed to last mere pages.
I would of liked to of seen more interaction between Sage and the other brides. Or even just the bride's. Where were they when Sage was fighting evil??
Each relationship Sage had brought out a different element of her personality, Darnessa, Clare, Charlie and each member of the army troupe. Sage and her interactions and relationships definitely the shining stars. I found the idea of the match making as a status symbol and a way to advance political agendas fascinating.
I would recommend this book to any and everyone.
It was a fast paced read with a great plot, easy to follow story line and likable characters.
Thank you NetGalley, Macmillan and Erin Beaty.
The Traitor’s Kiss follows Sage Fowler as she becomes the assistant to one of the matchmakers of the land. They travel with all their eligible, noble ladies, accompanied by a group of soldiers to the capital for the matching, and intrigue ensues. Personally, I thought the story was okay, but the narrative structure led to a lot of confusion as to what was happening. The initial chapters had way too many characters thrown at the reader without much explanation, and why things were the way they were politically was glossed over.
Another thing that rubbed me the wrong way was the first appearance of one of the “bad” guys, a “darker” skinned man with tattoos. The main male protagonist was described as having dark skin, which was vague, but a little better than the usual white skinned protagonists that generally fill novels. Unfortunately, any half-success the author had with Quinn’s vague race was definitely aggravated by her heavy handed dealing with the Kimisara. Since the only person that really interacted with those characters wasn’t a good person himself, I could have forgive it a little if Beaty showed another side to their nation of people, but as is, it left a sour taste in my mouth.
Overall, any good things about this book were overshadowed by the confusing narrative structure and icky undertones of girl hate (Why all this focus on Jacqueline without even giving her a redeeming quality?). This book could have been really good, but fell short.
The Traitor's Kiss was not quite what I was expecting. While an emphasis on details in the fantasy genre work for some, they certainly don't impress me unless its balanced with richly developed characters. In all honestly I struggled to keep up with the political world that was created here and quite frankly I found it tiresome after awhile. I was much more interested in the characters and I just didn't feel that the author dived deep enough into their characters.
I also wasn't a fan of the way that the author tried to hide the true identity of the "hero". This went on far too long and the resolution too quickly. For me, the ambiguous nature of who Sage's romantic interest is was not particularly compelling. It's pretty clear to readers who this hero is and Sage is left in the dark for the majority of the book. The continued dropping of hints to the reader just didn't work for me; it was so frustrating and made the plot unnecessarily complex. I was left wondering what the point of the whole mystery was. I'm not a fan of the whole "secret identity" thing in general, so having the plot element continue on for so long was not something that appealed to me.
The story did have a lot of potential; the plot devices used just aren't something that are ever going to appeal to me as a reader. So, I will be picking up the book, as long as we don't have another secret identity situation on our hands!
A Mulan retelling or Jane Austen mixed with espionage, both descriptions have been used in the marketing of The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beatty, which is what drew me to this story initially but, so much bothered me by the end. Sage, the heroine, is apprenticed to the matchmaker after her intelligence and temper leave her unfit to be matched with a husband. An orphan, Sage is excited to leave the home of her uncle, but unsure that matchmaking is the right business for her. The young ladies are prim and proper and knowing that Sage is common, treat her poorly. In fairness, Sage is just as disrespectful back. There is some serious girl shaming, with an emphasis on looks, intelligence and money. The girl hate was constant in the narrative and as a plot device is a weak substitute for what could have been done to create complex characters. Sage was raised up, by demeaning every other female character, even Clare who eventually became her friend, was not immune. Showing us how her life was different, didn’t have to include constant insults and girl on girl hate. I am an intelligent reader, I can figure out that Sage is smart, has had a different upbringing and indeed is not boy crazy, without being told that the other girls are “spoiled, rude, and overbearing” over and over again.
As a huge fan of Mulan, I was looking forward to seeing how this retelling was handled. However, with few exceptions like Sage dressing in boy clothes to help with spying at times, there were few elements that came from the Mulan storyline. Espionage played a large role in the tale, and Sage’s bookish manner leaned towards a Jane Austen/spy narrative. During the story the matchmaker and Sage accompany a large group of potential brides to the capital to complete their matches. The group is protected by soldiers who are embroiled in a political conflict between their homeland, Demora, and a rival country, Kimisar. The people from Kimisar are described in the book as “even darker than Demorans from Aristel, and this close he almost faded into the shadows. Swirling tattoos on his exposed forearms added to the shapeless effect.” Throughout the narrative, the enemies from Kimisar are constantly described as dark, yet again reinforcing the over used trope of the aggressor being dark skinned. What was most frustrating about this was how little I was given to know about the people from Kimisar so they truly felt like nothing more than a plot device of the big bad dark skinned people out to destroy the white people. It was so frustrating and honestly, I almost just DNFd the book right there.
While the story definitely has some swoony scenes and a few scenes of intense action, numerous times, especially at the beginning the POVs of the characters were confusing to the point that I had to reread multiple times to figure out what was happening. The confusing beginning leads to a slow middle and an action-packed end. The best part of the narrative was the espionage, it was expertly plotted and I feel like Beatty has an opportunity in the rest of the trilogy to write brilliant books by removing the girl on girl hate and removing the dark-skinned aggressor trope. If those tropes were removed I would be willing to read the rest of the trilogy when it comes out and I would recommend it, otherwise I say pass.
Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Oh man! I devoured this book today! I started it a few days ago and got busy with school but today I finished it all and I loved it!!! I need more now!! It was fantastic! Highly highly recommend! Such a fun adventure with amazing characters and fun twists and turns! Can't wait to read it again!
Sage is a strong willed young woman in a time of compliant maidens. She prefers breeches to skirts, and climbing trees to needlepoint. When forced to meet the matchmaker, she reveals her aversion to being matched. The matchmaker decides to take Sage under her wing as her apprentice, where Sage demonstrates her keen observational skills and sharp intellect. The royal guard also admires these skills, and she is recruited to gather information for the crown as they sense an uprising brewing.
I would like to state, that I am a hard-core contemporary reader. However, I do delight in a fantasy novel from time to time, and especially like when the story lean towards high fantasy. I love taking that trip back to an undefined time, to another world, that is entrenched in its own history, geography, and politics. Ahhh, a true escape from the day to day grind.
I was very pleased with the escape provided by The Traitor's Kiss. I know there are some things that will disappoint the hard core fantasy lovers out there. As far as I know, there is no map, and I know it is somewhat crucial to understand the lay of the land. Perhaps, there will be a map in the finished copy (?). And, although Beaty did a wonderful job with the history and politics of the realm, the world building was still a little lacking. Alas, this is slated to be a trilogy, and Beaty can get that done in the next book. But, like I said, I am a contemporary reader, so this did not bother me. This book was all about the characters for me.
I think at this point, we expect strong heroines, and Sage was just that. She had her own thoughts and opinions. She wanted to make her own decisions, and to make her own way in the world. She valued intellect and learning over preening and being matched. She was essentially an anachronism in this undefined medieval-like time. I loved her spirit, her sass, her can-do attitude. I liked that she was not afraid to get her hands dirty. There were so many sides and layers to her. Her past broke my heart, but what a future I sense for her.
"I could never be happy pretending to be something I'm not. I just wish being myself didn't cause so much trouble."
I thought the matchmaker was well crafted, as well. Mistress Rodelle had this air of superiority, that came along with the power to arrange political unions, but she also had this nurturing side, which was apparent in her dealings with Sage. Some of her plotting elicited grins from me, as I knew I would love the result. She was crafty, and I liked it.
The captain and his men wormed their way into my heart as well. They were swoonworthy, but also so loyal and dedicated to the crown and each other. Their bonds of brotherhood were quite apparent, and their interactions were often amusing. But what I really liked, was the way they respected Sage. Once she was pulled into their circle, they listened to her, and treated her as an equal. They considered her suggestions, and when they worked, they gave her credit. They appreciated her, and didn't underestimate her abilities. That scored them points in my book.
Some reviews I have read did not like when the book took a romantic turn. Um, I love romance, and this one was totally ship-worthy. I smiled and swooned and all that good stuff. It was a slow burn, but once it got there, it was a wildfire.
"Kissing her had been like tasting sunshine."
This is also the type of trilogy I like - no cliffy! I am a fan of series, which have an overarching story, but also a story arc that is completed in each book. This BIG plot is not resolved, but the smaller plot is. We know enough at the end of this book to expect more, but also be sated, and that always pleases me.
Overall: a promising beginning to a new series replete with great characters, battles, duplicitous plots, espionage, and romance.
I loved this.. It's classic fantasy and all the characters were well developed and relatable.
Sage, an orphan of marriage age, rebels against the planned future her Lord uncle seeks for her. A somewhat acceptable alternative is to be apprenticed to the matchmaker who told her uncle is was unmatchable. Sage soon finds herself involved in a dangerous adventure to save her land from invaders and discovers a future that is perfect for her. A delightful romp.