The First Betrayal

By Patricia Bray

I had to go to hospital for a small operation (that nonetheless entailed my first night in a hospital), so I had to have some light reading. This book looked like the most likely satisfying on the fantasyand science fiction shelves of the local bookshop. I had never heard of the author, which is a plus for me, and the world building seemed quite nice, even if a little derivative, with strong echoes of late Byzantium and a map that looked a bit like the Black Sea. And despite being the first of a series, it didn’t seem the usual hackneyed first part of a polylogy, but a rounded story.

Turns out that it was good choice: there are interesting people in the book, shades of moral good and bad, the world building is as interesting as it seemed at first blush, the intrigue is complex, but not too complex
for my nose-stuffed-up-with-sponges-and-bandaged self. Only near the end it seemed as if Patricia Bray got into trouble: she has set up her various plotlines so that there simply isn’t good or bad anymore and it becomes difficult to emphathize with any of the protagonists. But that’s quite realistic, too, and the depictions of imperial politics, while not quite as convincing as, say, Psellus (who really was in the thick of it), are convincing.

Another strong point: the main protagonist’s condition remained a mystery to me for as long as it remained a mystery to himself, despite carefully crafted hints. To me that shows that this is a well-crafted story. I’m looking forward to the second story about Josan — even though the preview at the back seems to hint that he won’t survive the first twenty pages.