Updated: Sep 23
by P.C. Darkcliff
The Traitor’s Spell is the third installment in Darkcliff’s epic fantasy series*. Baard Thon, the former logger of Icecreek, and his wonderfully engaging troop of loyal followers are back, battle-scarred and weary, yet determined to take down the remaining two Wrathlords.
But they will need more than determination, especially if Baard is to fulfill his dream of studying silver-level magic with the Archmage in the mysterious Aganopean Empire…
Here we go again, more sword, sorcery, and spells with Baard and Co., except it’s not quite so straightforward as that. There is a distinct change in The Traitor’s Spell which personally elevates this book to the strongest in the series, thus far.
Darkcliff has made calculated adjustments in almost every area of The Traitor’s Spell. From plotting and character development to the technicalities of pace and tone, there are shifts and switches. Some subtle, some obvious, some unexpected, but all paying handsome dividends for the reader.
He provides a nicely concise page refresher at the beginning of The Traitor’s Spell which is a sensible decision three books in. The reader is then deposited straight back onto the battlefield, a fortnight since the last fight and barely forty-eight hours since The Middleman was killed.
The action scenes are breathtaking. Inventive but concisely written and controlled so that they don’t start to become a blur or draining to read. Ufi is central at this relatively early stage. His scene in Chapter 4 with Gorgoth is riveting, with the former Jester exhibiting a hitherto unseen level of maturity and sense.
Indeed, his manic energy can sometimes be exasperating, although he guarantees a good comic foil to what is becoming an incredibly dark and twisted narrative. However, he is not present for quite a large part of the novel, which, conversely, gives his character more depth and interest than if he were.
Another central player who also deviates from the main story is Diara. Before she takes a detour, which is a bold and personally, excellent move, Darkcliff has ensured that the once slightly frivolous and frustrating girl is, now, understandably riven with anger, vulnerability, and trauma, causing her to lash out at herself, Baard, and the world. Damaged yet still headstrong, it’s a guessing game what might transpire with her.
It's through Diara’s conflicts, and later, Gadram’s, that you witness the poetry and emotion of Darkcliff’s prose. The series and especially this outing have, at their nucleus, deeply human stories set within a richly descriptive and immersive fantastical world that constantly evolves and redefines both itself and its inhabitants in response to their struggles and fears.
Anyhow, Darkcliff takes the reader in a different direction, literally, in The Traitor’s Spell. To the mythically beautiful city of Dar Kahar, the home of the Magic Circle with an absolute raft of colorful, credible, and superbly depicted characters. Kemler is a standout, as are the Sea Nomads that Baard encounters en route.
Mardok takes more prominence from here on, and, although she remains softly enigmatic and seemingly fragile, she begins to display a quietly tenacious sense of resourcefulness which becomes integral to the plot.
The story within Dar Kahar is gripping, taking on the life of an engrossing mystery that is well-constructed and full of nail-biting suspense. Darkcliff plays with reader expectations and, for several chapters, the weight of suspicion falls believably on the majority of individuals.
The reader is gifted the new character of Emeraine, and I suspect she will stir things up for Baard in the next book. Notwithstanding his legendary achievements, Baard is growing into a tired, tortured soul. It might appear he is in control but he is being buffeted on all sides, turning him into an agent of emotional chaos rather than an agent of change.
As with the previous books, The Traitor’s Spell is a weighty tome, but it never feels as such. The short chapters that end on cliffhangers, some physical, and the purposeful tone maintain an energetic pace and drive momentum. Further, the world that Darkcliff has conjured for these novels is so intricately detailed without being indulgent, complex, or sprawling that it simply absorbs you.
The Traitor’s Spell is another triumph from the master crafter of epic fantasy with heart, humanity, and a touch of hubris. Highly recommended.
*Click here for my review of The Wizard’s Blade (The Magic Circle Book One)
*Click here for my review of The Dragon’s Eye (The Magic Circle Book Two)