Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn HamiltonTraitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #2
Published by Faber & Faber on February 2nd, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 512
Goodreads

This is not about blood or love. This is about treason.

Nearly a year has passed since Amani and the rebels won their epic battle at Fahali. Amani has come into both her powers and her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, and the Rebel Prince's message has spread across the desert - and some might say out of control. But when a surprise encounter turns into a brutal kidnapping, Amani finds herself betrayed in the cruellest manner possible.

Stripped of her powers and her identity, and torn from the man she loves, Amani must return to her desert-girl's instinct for survival. For the Sultan's palace is a dangerous one, and the harem is a viper's nest of suspicion, fear and intrigue. Just the right place for a spy to thrive... But spying is a dangerous game, and when ghosts from Amani's past emerge to haunt her, she begins to wonder if she can trust her own treacherous heart.

3.5 Stars

Traitor to the Throne is the highly anticipated sequel in the Rebel of the Sands trilogy. I cannot in all honesty say that I enjoyed the sequel less than the first book, even though Traitor to the Throne received a slightly lower rating from me. I have, however, become more critical of the literature I read. Traitor to the Throne was gripping, action-packed, and spun an intriguing plot, which was somewhat overshadowed by a rocky start of info-dumps and issues I had with the characters and world-building.

Idealists make great leaders, but they never make good rulers.

 

✓ I had enjoyed Amani in Rebel of the Sands, and my admiration of her character continued in the sequel. Her character development is subtle but it is noticeable. Albeit still the same spitfire and emotionally charged little cupcake, Amani has matured since the events of the first book, for example showing more consideration for the fate of others. Though I can see why some do not like her as a heroine, I’ve bonded with her from the first page of Rebel of the Sands and this instalment has further increased my fondness for this strong-willed, quick-witted, impulsive character. The only aspect of her characterization I found lacking was how her doubt in her cause, namely the Rebellion, was portrayed. I would have expected more introspection, more back and forth, more uncertainty in her behaviour, but she chucked the seeds of doubt aside as quickly as they arose. Overall, she’s still one of the pillars of this series, and I hope to see her thrive in the next instalment!
✓ A realization has finally hit me square in the face and I don’t know how I didn’t notice this before: Imin, the shape-shifter, gives the book the diversity it needs with regard to gender and sexuality. Easily switching between male and female forms, Imin does not have a default gender per se. This was something I had overlooked in the first instalment, but Hamilton made it clear by Imin’s personal romantic subplot that she/he isn’t female nor male, but both.
✓ Romantic subplots we get plenty in Traitor to the Throne, with me being particularly interested in Amani’s and Jin’s, of course. For me, these two really have chemistry, even though I didn’t feel it quite as much in the sequel. But I loved the crackling tension between those two stubborn children. Hamilton doesn’t just hand that HEA over on a silver platter, that’s for sure. I love a romance I have to suffer for, and suffer I did.
The general plot was entertaining, for it was action-packed, fast-paced and spouted buckets of uncertainties, intrigue, and scheming at me. Yes, please. We get the reappearance of old, familiar faces and some “moral greyness”, which added some spice to the plot. The info-dumps in the first chapters put aside, Traitor to the Throne delivers a smooth ride with nice twists and turns. I was hooked from start (or maybe shortly after, lol) to finish, and I’m keen on book 3!
✓ Though I do have a bone to pick with the world-building, I adore the mythology in this book. Though Hamilton laid a good foundation in Rebel of the Sands, her mythology – namely, the myths and legends of Miraji – truly evolved and blossomed in Traitor to the Throne. At times, I thought her legends of ancient wars and magical love stories were as interesting, if not more, than the actual storyline itself. Hamilton is an exquisite storyteller, and she exceeded the level of her main work with the creation of the stories within the story.
✘ Contrary to how I felt when I closed the book, Traitor to the Throne and I didn’t start off on the right foot. The sequel does not start where Rebel of the Sands left off, which opened a wide gap to dump infos in. And info-dump she did. Basically, the events between the two instalments were wrapped up in the first chapter as a quick summary. I’m sure Hamilton meant well and wanted to cut right to the chase, but I don’t like having a shitload of plot dumped on me when I would’ve preferred to witness it in person.
✘ Though I love the cast of this series, something irked me, namely that there are too many, which decreases their depth. Quality over quantity goes for characters as well. Now, I admit that I experience the same problem when I engage in creative writing. This is not an easy obstacle to overcome, and I’m unsure what Hamilton could have done to solve the problem, other than writing a longer book and give the supporting cast more page time. But especially at the beginning of the book, I felt like I was drowning in names but unable to get a grasp on what personalities I was dealing with. I thought the cast of the first instalment had been extensive enough, with some characters bordering on cardboard material, and it certainly doesn’t shrink with Traitor to the Throne.
✘ The following is a very personal opinion with regard to how fantasy is done right, so bear with me. I do not approve of world religions being used in fantasy books – there, I said it. If you create a fictional realm with fictional mythology, I just don’t understand by the life of me why you’d use en existing world religion. Religion and mythology are closely tied to each other, so this doesn’t make any sense. To me, that’s lazy world-building, because creating the religious system is one of the hardest aspects of fantasy world-building. Also, there are a million things that could go wrong, so if you do include a religion like Islam, I expect the portrayal to be somewhat authentic. However, up to the mentioning of minarets as a defining architectural element, there had been no reference to the belief in Allah or the daily practice of Islam, for example the daily five prayers as one core element of Islam. Sure, we can say “The people of Miraji just aren’t practicing Muslims”, but I don’t buy it. I’m still pointing at this as incredibly half-hearted religion-building.
I’ve really enjoyed this series so far and see great potential in Hamilton’s work for the future as well, but I believe she can do better than the first two books, even though they were entertaining and suspenseful. Traitor to the Throne fell flat with regard to showing-not-telling (which resulted in heaps of info-dumps in the first chapters), character depth, and world-building, which should’ve been areas in which the sequel was superior to the first instalment. Alas, this was not the case. I’m still very excited for the final instalment, though, because whereas the book lacks in certain department, it certainly creates loads of suspense!