Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Traitor of Redwinter by Ed McDonald, which is out in stores tomorrow, October 24, 2023. This is the sequel to one of my favorites from last year, Daughter of Redwinter, and I was very excited to return to this world.
Traitor of Redwinter is the second in Ed McDonald’s Redwinter Chronicles, full of shady politics, militant monks, ancient powers… and a young woman navigating a world in which no one is quite what they seem.
The power of the Sixth Gate grows stronger within Raine each day―to control it, she needs lessons no living Draoihn can teach her. Her fledgling friendships are tested to a breaking point as she tries to face what she has become, and her master Ulovar is struck by a mysterious sickness that slowly saps the vitality from his body, leaving Raine to face her growing darkness alone. There’s only one chance to turn the tide of power surging within her―to learn the secrets the Draoihn themselves purged from the world.
The book can teach her. She doesn’t know where she found it, or when exactly, but its ever changing pages whisper power that has lain untouched for centuries.
As the king’s health fails and the north suffers in the grip of famine, rebellious lords hunger for the power of the Crown, backed by powers that would see the Crowns undone. Amidst this growing threat, Raine’s former friend Ovitus brings a powerful new alliance, raising his status and power of his own. He professes support for the heir to the throne even as others would see him take it for himself, and desperately craves Raine’s forgiveness―or her submission.
But the grandmaster has her own plans for Raine, and the deadly training she has been given has not been conducted carelessly. In Raine she seeks to craft a weapon to launch right into her enemy’s heart, as Redwinter seeks to hold onto power.
Amidst threats old and new, Raine must learn the secrets promised by the book, magic promised by a queen with a crown of feathers. A queen to whom Raine has promised more than she can afford to give…
***Thank you to Tor Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
As I began to ponder my thoughts about Traitor of Redwinter, I struggled to come up with anything cohesive to say. After plenty of reflection, I’ve decided that it is probably because my reading experience with this book was so out of the ordinary. I trudged through the first two-thirds so slowly even though the general ideas and characters were fascinating. Then the last third had me so hooked I couldn’t put it down. The last bit of the book also made me see the first parts in a new light, and I don’t think of them as negatively now as I did upon first reading them.
The first half of Traitor of Redwinter largely focused on character development and a bit of world-building. The narrative explored Raine’s response to the horrors she experienced in the first book, and the impact of PTSD on her relationships. She understandably regressed as a character now that she felt the emotional weight of everything for the first time. She had nightmares and became addicted to drugs to numb herself, while also engaging in rash behavior. All of her new friendships fell apart, as she isolated herself from those she loved the most to avoid them seeing the parts of her that she considered rotten.
Ultimately, Raine’s story in Traitor of Redwinter was one of self-acceptance, which I did end up appreciating quite a bit. She was just so whiny during the first half of the book, and things felt like they were moving at the pace of molasses. Some of her internal monologue just got to the point where it felt mind-numbingly repetitive, but upon further reflection, I realized that the frustration of feeling stuck as the reader mimicked Raine’s own experience of training in Redwinter while spiraling into deeper loneliness and despair.
I loved the additions to the world-building in Traitor of Redwinter. There was so much cool history exposed. The magic system is still one of my favorites ever, and I enjoyed getting to see it in action again, especially some of the more esoteric powers that came into play. Grandmaster Robilar was a key figure in the story, and it was fascinating to see how her history intertwined with the current conflict in so many ways. There was clan drama, as well, with plenty of political intrigue. I think my one complaint would be that for most of the first half all of the interesting political maneuvering was happening around the characters without actually involving them.
The last quarter of Traitor of Redwinter had me in a choke-hold that would not let me put the book down. I read until 4 AM just to see how it all ended. There were so many payoffs for small things from throughout the first two books, and the author’s attention to detail and ability to build an intricate narrative shined through in those moments. The ending was both tragic and hopeful, and it had me wanting to scream in rage at certain characters.
Overall, Traitor of Redwinter was a solid character-focused sequel that set the stage for a truly epic third installment. I cannot wait to return to this world again because I’m so curious to see where the story goes next. There are SO MANY things I’d love to talk about but can’t because of spoilers. So, I’ll just end with this tidbit. If you enjoyed the first book, definitely give this one a go and withhold judgment until you reach the end. If you haven’t started the series yet, what are you waiting for? All things considered, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.