Review | The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Nothing is as it seems in the kingdom of Antora. Kestra Dallisor has spent three years in exile in the Lava Fields, but that won’t stop her from being drawn back into her father’s palace politics. He’s the right hand man of the cruel king, Lord Endrick, which makes Kestra a valuable bargaining chip. A group of rebels knows this all too well – and they snatch Kestra from her carriage as she reluctantly travels home.The kidnappers want her to retrieve the lost Olden Blade, the only object that can destroy the immortal king, but Kestra is not the obedient captive they expected. Simon, one of her kidnappers, will have his hands full as Kestra tries to foil their plot, by force, cunning, or any means necessary. As motives shift and secrets emerge, both will have to decide what – and who – it is they’re fighting for.

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If I had to describe The Traitor’s Game in one word, it would be “bland.” There isn’t much to distinguish it from other YA fantasy novels that I’ve read; the worldbuilding is lacking, with little detail spared to describe the magic system, technology, and various kingdoms. The plot itself was predictable, containing none of the twists that I have come to expect from Nielsen. Simply put, it’s forgettable.

The characters felt like cardboard cutouts: they were snarky and had great banter, but that’s about it. The fact that the dual narration was often indistinguishable only highlighted how poorly fleshed out these characters were. This, of course, made it difficult for me to become invested in the resulting romance that quickly took over the plot.

As someone who typically loves hate-to-love romances, I found myself incredibly disappointed with this one, especially since the “hate” that I was promised is only briefly touched upon. With less than 24 hours passing before one character’s life starts to revolve around the other’s, there was no build up to the sudden attraction, making it feel forced and out of place. It was insta-love at its finest, and I was not here for it.

Overall, The Traitor’s Game was an incredibly underwhelming addition to an already saturated genre. I likely won’t continue reading the series.

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