Book Review: THE TRAITOR GOD by Cameron Johnston

(Title: The Traitor God / Author: Cameron Johnston / Publisher: Angry Robot / Publication Date: June 5, 2018)

Angry Robot Books is a publishing company that just keeps churning out quality authors and books lately.  It has gradually become one of my favorite publishing companies and I have read quite a few amazing titles over the past few years from them.  So when I first saw the absolutely gorgeous cover art of THE TRAITOR GOD written by Scottish author Cameron Johnston, I already had an inkling that I wanted to know more about it.  

When I found out that it was being published by Angry Robot, to be released in the United States on June 5th, that took me a little bit further.  When I read the synopsis of the book and quickly learned that it contained daemons, sorcerers, magicians and gods!  Well that only solidified my resolve to search out an advanced reader copy before the impending release date.  And when Angry Robot was gracious enough to supply that very advanced copy, I was ready to jump in feet first.  This is Cameron Johnston's very first full-length book, which makes what I believe he accomplished with this story all the more impressive.  So without further adieu, let me introduce you to this exceptional debut novel, THE TRAITOR GOD.

Cameron Johnston wastes no time in throwing the reader immediately into the action of THE TRAITOR GOD.  Edrin Walker is a magician with a not so sterling reputation in his home city of Setharis.  When you're rumored to have killed a god in your past, this sentiment is fairly easy to understand.  Couple that with a few other shady events in Edrin's earlier life and he has found himself a reviled exile from his home town for the last ten years.  Edrin has the ability to connect minds with other gifted magicians that are like himself and this is introduced very effectively in the story when he senses that his best friend Lynas is in mortal danger back home in Setharis.  

This is troubling to Edrin since as the main condition of his exile, the Arcanum leaders of the city promised not to harm his good friends Lynas, Charra and their daughter Layla as long as he didn't ever return.  Things quickly ramp up when Edrin can sense Lynas being stalked by a daemon and ultimately sees him brutally murdered through their connection.  Before Lynas meets his violent end, he sends out one last ditch message to Edrin using his skill.  This mysterious message forces Edrin to return to the home city that shunned him.  The magician is now fueled not only by the desire for revenge at all costs for the treachery and betrayal done to him, but also a by the desperate mission to find Charra and Layla and make sure that the same fate does not befall them as well.  

It is now obvious that the terms of his exile have been wantonly disregarded for some reason with all bets now being off, but Edrin seems to like it that way.  First he must sneak into the city undetected, which is not a small task considering that the docks are tightly guarded by Arcanum "sniffers".  Then he must somehow unravel the mystery of who murdered his friend and for what purpose.  Did it have something to do with Edrin's past deeds that caused him to be exiled in the first place?  Or was the murder just a ploy to somehow get Edrin to return home and face one last judgment of sorts?  And what exactly was the mysterious message that Lynas transmitted to Edrin seconds before he died?  We are ultimately left wondering if there is a greater conspiracy at work among the higher-up Arcanum of the city and whether Lynas may have stumbled across something that he shouldn't have.  And now Edrin is thrust headlong into the middle of a maelstrom of battling factions and deceitful interests.  The only question that remains is will he survive and can he save Charra and Layla who also are being hunted by the same evil forces.

This book is like a video game, wrapped inside an action movie, brilliantly told in written word form.  A quick disclaimer: Cameron Johnston does not hold your hand and info dump you to death, so you'd better strap yourself in and get ready for one whirlwind of a fantastic story that does not slow down.  Edrin is a complex main character in that he starts off as an unsympathetic egotist but as the story progresses, his character does as well and you actually can't help but root for him by the end.  It's weird to have such conflicting emotions when dealing with a main character like that.  

The mysteries unravel slowly and are only hinted at as the book goes on.  So as the reader, you really have to remain focused on what is going on throughout because this is not a book that allows for many distractions.  I love books that drop you right into the story from the beginning with minimal build-up.  I know that I might be in the minority in that regard, but I just don't enjoy a book that sets things up very slowly.  I guess it might be the impatient reader in me in that I am always looking for the next book to read, so I don't want to feel like I am being spoon-fed a ton of information to the detriment of the story development.  THE TRAITOR GOD was just what I look for in a reading experience.  

Tons of action, incredible world-building, bad guys who are reaaaally bad, an intriguing mystery at the heart of it etc...  This book just worked on so many levels for me and I was left wanting more by the end.  I say that not with respect to being unsatisfied with the book's conclusion, but because it was so incredibly good that I wished I had book number two in my hands and ready to go.  By all means, do not cheat yourself by skipping this book.  It has so much to offer for anyone who loves breakneck action in their Fantasy as well as cool villains and magic aplenty. And for those who like a little bit of mystery in their reads, it has a good deal of that too.

(My Rating: 9/10)