The Dread Wyrm (Traitor Son Cycle book 3) by Miles Cameron (book review).

December 18, 2019 | By | Reply More

Once a book has been published, it is impossible to correct flaws in the construction of a fantasy world without causing major discontinuity problems. Thus areas in the first volume of a fantasy series that are incongruous in the imagined world are set and unchangeable and attempts to rectify them will either create inconsistencies or potentially make the situation worse.

This is the case with this series, the ‘Traitor Son Cycle’. The same issues with world-building encountered in the first two volumes of this series, ‘The Red Knight’ and ‘The Fell Sword’ are still very much in evidence.

The Dread Wyrm’, the third volume of this cycle of novels, continues almost directly from ‘The Fell Sword’. The Company of the Red Knight, a small army of mercenaries led by Gabriel Muriens, is on its way to Harndon, the capital of Albin, to attend the tournament scheduled for just after Easter and, as the novel opens, they are camped at the inn at Dorling. This is in the territory of and under the protection of Mr. Smythe, a shape-changing, fire-breathing wyrm. Enemies are gathering to the north and south. The king of Galle, over the sea to the east, has designs on the whole continent and has sent autonomous armies to cause mischief.

Those in the north have made an alliance with Thorn. He used to be a human magician but has gathered power and subjugated the creatures of the Wild to his will. While in the first books, the Wild was a bit of an anomaly, being populated by all kinds of warlike creatures, such as boglins and irks. The suggestion in ‘The Dread Wyrm’ is that the humans are the anomaly having somehow been transplanted to this world. The creatures of the Wild want their world back.

Meanwhile, in Harndon, Jean de Vrailly is stirring things up. He has gained the ear of the king and has acquired the task of tax collecting and his methods can be brutal. He is also insinuating that the pregnant queen not only has been unfaithful but is a witch. The situation here is designed to come to a head at the tournament with the execution of the queen as one of the events. Gabriel is forced to split his troops.

This series would fall under the heading of GrimDark as there are multiple battles and plenty of carnage. Although there are issues with the world-building, this is an author that does know a lot about medieval warfare. Unlike some writers in this genre, he makes adequate provision for his troops with provision wagons and appropriate camp followers.

Although there will be some readers who will wallow in the detail, much of the technical details could have been curtailed, making the book sharper. In fact, judicial pruning would have greatly improved the flow and readability. The battles are expertly described and have probably been rehearsed as Miles Cameron is reported to be a re-enactor, specialising in the medieval period.

One of the things that is problematical is the queen’s pregnancy. She is within weeks or probably days of giving birth when she is rescued from Harndon and made to flee north. For fast travel, travelling on horseback is likely to be the only option, yet there is no sense of her discomfort. For an author who wants to include every detail, the omission of need for frequent toilet stops is ignored. Once the child is born, mercifully quickly, is not described anywhere as being magical yet, in places, the description is inconsistent with that of a new-born.

While there is less chopping and changing between viewpoint characters, the number being juggled is still too many and with all threads entangled in an over complicated scenario many of the characters blur. The plot itself is fairly straightforward but doesn’t always concentrate on the essentials.

There are at least two novels muddled up together here and, as a result, the impact the book could have had is lost. On the plus side, Cameron is not precious about his characters, so expect some serious collateral damage. Only recommended for GrinDark fanatics with a lot of time on their hands.

Pauline Morgan

December 2019

(pub: Gollancz, 2016. 554 page paperback. Price: £10.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-11338-1)

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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