Review: Traitor's Masque

Traitor's Masque by Kenley Davidson is the first book in the Andari Chronicles. I enjoyed Goldheart, the second book, more than this one thanks to a more concise story and a more relatable protagonist. Traitor's Masque is an original adaptation of "Cinderella." It feels like I enjoy every consecutive "Cinderella" adaptation I read less each time because it's so overplayed. Every storyteller thinks they're being more unique than the last by incorporating a bunch of new twists and turns. If they really wanted to be original, they would use one of the hundreds of other fairy tales out there that hasn't already been adapted to death. That said, Kenley Davidson is still a fantastic author. She wrote A Beautiful Curse, which was my favorite book from the Entwined Tales series. Her Andari Chronicles stand out from similar series of fairy tale adaptation novels because she incorporates a more realistic spin. The world contains no magic and a wealth of knowledge about nobility from days long past that many other fantasy authors like myself don't bother to research for their stories.

Traitor's Masque is about an outspoken young woman named Trystan whose life bears a slight resemblance to a famous little cinder girl. Instead of being treated like a servant, Trystan is spoiled and rough around the edges. Her stepmother refuses to let her go out in public, but to be honest, it isn't hard to see why. She has no social grace or tact. Trystan's only friends are her servants, especially her cook, Vianne. Her only escape to the outside world is a hidden area in the woods where she likes to go riding. There, she encounters a young man who is also trying to escape his difficult life. Trystan's troubles begin when she is propositioned by a noble lady to attend the prince's ball and partake in a seemingly harmless task that would allow Prince Ramsey's brother, Rowan, to replace him as heir to the throne. She has no qualms with any of this until she learns that Prince Ramsey is actually the boy she had grown to care for in the woods.

As far as "Cinderella" heroines go, I didn't find Trystan very easy to root for. She comes off as a bit of a spoiled brat who makes a lot of bad decisions. There's nothing wrong with giving a character flaws, but Trystan has few redeeming qualities and does not come off as the princess in peasant's clothing that would be expected from a "Cinderella" adaptation. Prince Ramsey is easier to like because he is loyal to a fault. He refuses to believe his brother wishes him harm without hard evidence and remains faithful to Trystan in spite of her betrayal. Ramsey depends on his best friend to help him find a suitor at the ball that will challenge his mind instead of one who is merely beautiful. He wants to be married to a woman he can actually talk to, which is a big step up from the classic depiction of Prince Charming. The second half of the story is easier to enjoy because it focuses more on him.

My biggest issue with Traitor's Masque is that it seems to drag on forever before it gets to the exciting climax. It was double the length of Goldheart, but most of it focuses on Trystan speculating over what will happen when Ramsey discovers her identity as the masked woman at the ball. However, when the story finally does kick in, it becomes very engaging. Even though Trystan is often criticized throughout the book as being too blunt to be socially acceptable, many of her conversations are blunt in a roundabout way full of long flowery dialogue that feels as though it will sprout an entire tree before it finishes. I'm glad I managed to hold out for the thrilling conclusion, but it would have been a more enjoyable read without all the fluff in the middle.

If you are looking for a version of "Cinderella" with no magic and a hard-as-nails heroine, Traitor's Masque might be the book for you. If you prefer softer heroines and less overexposed fairy tales, I recommend Goldheart or possibly another one of the later books from the Andari Chronicles. Kenley Davidson is a skilled writer with a library of historical knowledge under her belt, but such skills do not always make for an easy read. She does, however, get props for writing one of the most original versions of "Cinderella" I've ever read. I just wish the heroine could have been a little closer to the common depiction of the famous fairy tale princess.


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