Traitors’ Gate by Kate Elliott

This is a book about betrayal. Hundreds of years ago the gods gave Guardians to the Hundred. These Guardians are resurrected people who died for a just cause and they were given the power to see into the hearts of men and judge them. Life, however, is seductive and the Guardians have become corrupt, pursuing their own continued existence instead of justice. They’ve betrayed the people of the Hundred and set themselves up as dictators that cleanse the land of corruption while their army destroys and enslaves its own people.

The Guardians have betrayed the trust of the people and many allegiances will be tested and broken. The characters in this book are pulled through one betrayal after another as they are faced with truly difficult decisions. Would you betray a loved one if it meant saving their life or the life of your child? Would you betray a friend to save your country? Would you betray all your beliefs in order to see justice done?

Captain Anji has a new son and a beautiful wife but he is an unwitting heir to the Imperial throne of Sirniaka and thus subject to being hunted by assassins from his brother who has claimed the throne. He also completely believes that the Guardians are demons who must be put down. Mai is his wife, and her brother Hari is one of the Guardians and he comes to her asking for sanctuary from the others.

Joss is a reeve – one of a police force that rides giant eagles and is sworn to seek out justice, in years past he would have worked closely with the Guardians to ensure that people are brought to trial. Now he finds himself allied with Captain Anji against the beings that his gods created as a sacred means of providing government in the Hundred. Killing one would be against the will of the gods but letting them live would destroy the peace and the land that he has lived in from birth.

There is also Shai, Mai’s uncle who is on a journey to discover his own strength. There is Zubaidit, the temple trained assassin sent to learn how to kill a Guardian, and her brother Kesh, the slave who struggles to overcome his own self-serving nature in order to prove his worth.

I did not want to read this book. The first two books of the series seemed to have characters that I didn’t care about doing things that didn’t seem to really matter in a world that only had a cursory foundation for its existence. Since there is only one series of books that I’ve started and never finished (and don’t intend to) I took a deep breath and plunged in. You see Traitor’s Gate is also a lot longer than the two books that came before it.

In Traitor’s Gate, something happened. I suddenly found that I cared for the characters. Betrayal comes from all sides and even characters that seemed safe find themselves victims of it. This book is the perfect ending – though not necessarily a happy one – for this series. It pulls the other two books together so tightly that it made the two previous volumes worth plodding through to get to it.

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