cover image The Traitor’s Game

The Traitor’s Game

Jennifer A. Nielsen. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-338-04537-6

Kestra Dallisor is the defiant 16-year-old daughter of Sir Henry Dallisor, chief counsel to Antora’s evil and possibly immortal ruler, Lord Endrick. Kestra is returning home following a three-year exile when Corack rebels ambush her carriage. Her attackers kidnap and threaten to kill Kestra’s driver and handmaid unless she smuggles two insurgents, Simon and Trina, into Sir Henry’s estate and helps them find the Olden Blade. The Blade is purportedly the only weapon capable of killing Lord Endrick, and it’s rumored to be hidden in the Dallisor dungeons. Kestra only cooperates because she must, but the longer she spends in the Coracks’ company, the more she questions what she knows about her kingdom, her family, and herself. First in a trilogy, this entertaining but uneven fantasy novel from Nielsen (the Mark of the Thief trilogy) advocates tolerance while championing female self-empowerment. Kestra and Simon’s alternating narratives are engaging and distinctive, but although Nielsen’s characters harbor plenty of secrets, they are somewhat one-dimensional, reducing the emotional impact of an otherwise action-packed, romance-laden tale. Ages 12–up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary. (Feb.)