Novel: Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton | Buy It
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Viking (PRH)
Rebel by chance. Traitor by choice.
Gunslinger Amani al’Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne.
When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan’s palace—she’s determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan’s secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she’s a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she’s been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.
Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about Djinn and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.
This series has been such an indulgence for me. Complex political rivalries, simmering tensions, and blisteringly intense action scenes pack a punch. Admittedly, I took a long time to get around to reading the sequel. I’m glad I did, because it made the wait for the third book that much more excrutiating.
Traitor to the Throne has an almost Star-Wars-like setup. Backstories play out in the first few pages, told rather than shown. The reader immediately plunges into a dizzying sequence of events and is hen tasked with piecing them all together.
The sheer mastery of the plot is difficult to capture. I generally find it hard for a book to surprise me — especially high fantasy, in which I’ve lately found an exhausted handful of tropes. Traitor to the Throne regularly defies convention, all while tossing in smart gimmicks that make it feel like a classic already.
The characters — particularly Amani, the protagonist — blaze. I find my self constantly using language that relies on heat imagery while describing them; the desert setting contributes to the overall sensation.)
Amani is a piece of work, in the best way possible. First of all, she’s a Demdji — half-Djinni with the ability to manipulate sand around her — and has unparalleled skill with a gun. She’s a badass, stubborn, and not entirely selfless either. As a whole, she’s both flawed and likable, navigating the harem and rebellion with a fire that keeps everything interesting.
Other characters spice it up nicely. While the amount of names can sometimes get overwhelming (there’s a cast of characters at the front of the book that’s moderately helpful), they each twist the narrative with singular flair. There’s Shazad, the underestimated general’s daughter; Hala, the bitter mind-manipulator; Ahmed, the soft Rebel Prince. The sequel introduces Sam, Rahim, Kadir, and other characters who sink into the story as if they’d always been there.
And of course, who could forget Jin?
The sea-oriented prince, protective of others but enigmatic about his own desires. Restless, loyal, and like the best friend you’ve always wanted. The romance between him and Amani is as compelling and heartwrenching as always — will they or won’t they? Admittedly, Traitor to the Throne does that frustrating sequel pattern in which it separates star-crossed lovers with both physical and emotional distance. Luckily though, the spark doesn’t fade. I’m a big fan of these two. I loved reading how much Amani could contribute to the Rebellion with or without Jin, though.
I credit Alwyn Hamilton with plenty of strengths. Choreography, politics, imagery, wit. However, she has some that stand out beyond the others.
She details nuances of characters’ morality so well. She deftly displays the shades of gray accompanying not only each one’s position, but every single choice they made. Ultimately, they all come back to bite. It made the story lines oscillate, left me constantly guessing, and lent the read significantly more depth. (Like the whole storyline with Tamid.)
Amani’s presence in the capital and the palace did so much for the trilogy as a whole. By the end, I had a keen sense of both the benefits and the drawbacks to the Rebellion succeeding, a human quality that lent it much more urgency.
And the plot twists!
Although I can wax poetic about how well Hamilton constructed various aspects of her world and the narrative, nothing gets me past the damn emotional impact of wanting to throw a book across the room because the author takes my heart and stomps on it. You get sucked into the language, into the suspenseful sequence of events, and have no idea what to expect.
Towards the end of the book, I legitimately slammed my book down and yelped something that didn’t sound entirely human. And then realized I was at the dinner table with some of my housemates, who looked intrigued and yet horrified. “Plot twist,” I explained, and then got up to pace the house before returning to my book.
I wish I could more accurately capture the aura of this series more. It’s brilliant, with the condensed intensity of language that Ally Carter is so skilled at, the chemistry of Renée Ahdieh, the political intrigue of Sabaa Tahir.
It escalates the series in all the right ways and left me dying for more. This series deserves my highest praise. How on earth will I survive until March, when the third book releases? (Related: if any folks have read this and are willing to discuss the ending with me, please let me know. I’m exploding!)