Saturday, March 18, 2017

Review: The Greatcoats series by Sebastien De Castell

On an Amazon recommendation, I picked up the current three books of the Greatcoats series by Sebastien De Castell (who may well have the coolest author name ever):
  • Traitor's Blade
  • Knight's Shadow
  • Saint's Blood
I'm going to comment on them as a unit as I read them back-to-back over the last few weeks and it's kind of hard to separate them in my head. The series is about three of the Greatcoats, royal wandering magistrates charged with upholding the King's law. The story is narrated by Falcio (pronounced "Fal-kee-oh") Val Mond, the First Cantor of the Greatcoats, and his two best friends: Kest and Brasti.

Falcio is a master swordsman who specializes in the rapier. He throws a mean knife and is a skilled negotiator. He's also known for his rather tiresome speeches. Kest is the best swordsman in the land. A solemn fellow, he is always analyzing situations tactically and can tell a foe how many moves it will take before Kest wins. Brasti is the best archer in the land. He (almost) never misses. A former poacher, he has a less-sophisticated view of the world than his friends and has a bit of an ego.

It's been five years since the King's death after being deposed by the despotic Dukes of Tristia, the land the story is set in. The Greatcoats are disgraced and forced to find odd jobs while trying to each follow the last commands of their King before his death.

During one of those jobs, things go from wrong to horribly, horribly wrong. And the stories set Facio and his friends on the road to finding the King's heir, defeating a variety of increasingly dangerous foes, and suffering some fairly horrific abuse along the way.

Overall, I really liked the books. They were filled with dashing adventure with some intriguing villains and some fascinating takes on magic and religion. That said, I did find the books tended to blur together. Falcio's character growth feels like it resets between books. The character doesn't seem to really learn from the truly horrible lessons he's given.

Falcio is the narrator of the series, and a badass, but he's arguably not the hero of the series. In many ways, those roles fall to the women in the books. The female characters are intriguing in their own way. In one way, they serve as Falcio's goal to protect. Sometimes they need the protection. Often they don't. They tend to be smarter and more observant than Facio (and often his friends). It's fun to watch those characters grow through Falcio's eyes, as they do seem to develop and change between books.

If you're a fan of a Three Muskateers flavor of fantasy fiction, I think you might want to give De Castell's series a chance.

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