Discover the magic of Trudi Canavan with her brand new novel in the Traitor Spy trilogy...
Events are building to a climax in Sachaka as Lorkin returns from his exile with the Traitor rebels. The Traitor Queen has given Lorkin the huge task of brokering an alliance between his people and the Traitors. Lorkin has also had to become a feared black magician in order to harness the power of an entirely new kind of gemstone magic. This knowledge could transform the Guild of Magicians - or make Lorkin an outcast forever.
The Traitor Spy trilogy, which began with The Ambassador's Mission and The Rogue, is the new series set in the world of the international bestselling Black Magician trilogy.
About the Author
Trudi Canavan published her first story in 1999 and it received an Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story. Her debut series, The Black Magician Trilogy, made her an international success and her last five novels have been Sunday Times bestsellers in the UK. Trudi Canavan lives with her partner in Melbourne, Australia, and spends her time writing, painting and weaving.
Read an Excerpt
The Traitor Queen
By Trudi Canavan
OrbitCopyright © 2013 Trudi Canavan
All rights reserved.
ASSASSINS AND ALLIES
There is a mistaken belief, in Imardin, that printing presses had been invented by magicians. Anyone unaware of the workings of presses and magic could easily gain the impression, from the spectacular noise and the convulsing actions of the machine, that some sort of Alchemy was taking place, but no magic was required so long as someone was willing to turn the wheels and operate the levers.
Cery had learned the truth of the matter from Sonea years ago. Prototypes of the machine had been presented to the Guild by the inventor and the Guild had embraced it as a fast and cheap way of making duplicates of books. A printing service was then offered to the Houses for free, and to anyone from other classes for a charge. The impression that printing was magical was encouraged to deter others from starting their own trade. It was not until people of lower- class origins entered the Guild that the myth was dispelled and printing presses began to appear in the city in significant numbers.
The downside to this, Cery reflected, was the boom in popularity of the romantic adventure novel. A recently published one featured a rich heiress rescued from her luxurious but boring life by a young, handsome Thief. The fights were laughably implausible, nearly always involved swords rather than knives, and the underworld was populated by far too many good-looking men with impractical ideas about honour and loyalty. The novel had given a portion of the female population of Imardin an impression of the underworld that was a long way from the truth.
Of course, he had said none of this to the woman lying in bed beside him, who had been reading to him her favourite parts of these books every night since she had agreed to let him stay in her cellar. Cadia was no rich heiress. And I am no dashingly handsome Thief. She had been lonely and sad since her husband's death, and the idea of hiding a Thief in her basement was a pleasant distraction.
And he ... he had all but run out of places to hide.
He turned to look at her. She was asleep, breathing softly. He wondered if she really believed he was a Thief, or if he simply fitted well enough into her fantasy that she didn't care if it was true or not. He was not the dashing young Thief of the novel – he certainly didn't have the stamina for the adventures described, either in bed or out of it.
I'm getting soft. I can't even walk up stairs without my heart thumping, and getting out of breath. We've spent too much time locked away in cramped hiding places and not enough time in fighting practice.
A muffled thump came from the next room. Cery lifted his head to regard the door. Were Anyi and Gol awake? Now that he was, he doubted he'd sleep again for some time. Being cooped up always led to him sleeping badly.
He slipped off the bed, automatically pulling on his trousers and reaching for his coat. Slipping one arm into a sleeve, he reached for the door handle and turned it quietly. As he pushed it open Anyi came into view. She was leaning over Gol, a blade catching the light of the night lamps, poised ready to strike. He felt his heart lurch in alarm and disbelief.
"What ...?" he began. At the sound, Anyi turned to look at him with the enviable speed of youth.
It was not Anyi.
Just as quickly, not-Anyi's attention moved back to Gol and the knife stabbed downwards, but hands rose to grab the assassin's wrist and stop it. Gol surged up off the bed. Cery was through the door by then, but checked his stride as a new thought overrode his intention to stop the woman.
He turned to see that another struggle was underway over at the second makeshift bed, only this time it was the intruder who was pressed to the mattress, holding back the hands that held a knife hovering just above his chest. Cery felt a surge of pride for his daughter. She must have woken in time to catch the assassin, and turned his attack against him.
But her face was stretched in a grimace of effort as she tried to force the knife down. Despite the assassin's small size, the muscles of his wrists and neck were well developed. Anyi would not win this trial of brute force. Her advantage was her speed. He took a step toward her.
"Get out of here, Cery," Gol barked.
Anyi's arms were forced back as her concentration was broken. She sprang out of reach of the assassin. He leapt off the bed and dropped into a fighting stance, whipping out a long, thin knife from within a sleeve. But he did not advance on her. His gaze moved to Cery.
Cery had no intention of leaving the fight to Anyi and Gol. He might one day have to abandon Gol, but this was not that day. He would never abandon his daughter.
He had slipped his other arm into the coat sleeve automatically. Now he stepped backwards and feigned fear, while reaching into the pockets, and wriggled his hands into the wrist straps of his favourite weapons: two knives, the sheaths fastened inside the pockets so that the blades would be bare and ready when Cery drew them out.
The assassin leapt toward Cery. Anyi sprang at him. Cery did too. It was not what the man expected. Nor did he expect the twin knives that trapped his own. Or the blade that, well aimed, slid through the soft flesh of his neck. He froze in surprise and horror.
Cery ducked away from the spray of blood as Anyi withdrew her knife, knocked the assassin's knife from his hand, then finished him with a stab to the heart.
Very efficient. I've trained her well.
With Gol's help, of course. Cery turned to see how his friend was faring and was relieved to see the female assassin lying in a growing pool of blood on the floor.
Gol looked at Cery and grinned. He was breathing hard. So am I, Cery realised. Anyi bent and ran her hands over the male attacker's clothing and hair, then rubbed her fingers together.
"Soot. He came down the chimney into the house above." She looked at the old stone stairs leading up to the basement door speculatively.
Cery's mood soured. However the pair had got in, or found them in the first place, this was no longer a safe hiding place. He scowled down at the dead assassins, considering the last few people he might call on for help, and how they might reach them.
A small gasp came from the doorway. He turned to see Cadia, wrapped only in a sheet, staring wide-eyed at the dead assassins. She shuddered, but as she looked at him her dismay turned to disappointment.
"I guess you won't be staying another night, then?"
Cery shook his head. "Sorry about the mess."
She regarded the blood and bodies with a grimace, then frowned and peered up at the ceiling. Cery hadn't heard anything, but Anyi had lifted her head at the same time. They all exchanged worried looks, not wanting to speak unless their suspicions were true.
He heard a faint creak, muffled by the floorboards above them.
As soundlessly as possible, Anyi and Gol grabbed their shoes, packs and the lamps and followed Cery into the other room, shutting the door behind them and lifting an old chest into place before it. Cadia stopped in the middle of the room, sighed and dropped the sheet so that she could get dressed. Both Anyi and Gol turned their backs quickly.
"What should I do?" Cadia whispered to Cery.
He picked up the rest of his clothes and Cadia's bedroom lamp, and considered. "Follow us."
She looked more ill than excited as they slipped through the trapdoor that led to the old Thieves' Road. The passages here were filled with rubble and not entirely safe. This section of the underground network had been cut off from the rest when the king had rebuilt a nearby road and put new houses where the old slum homes had been. Though it was not quite within the borders of his territory, Cery had paid an old tunneller to dig a new access passage, but had left the old ways looking abandoned so that nobody would be tempted to use them if they did find them. It had been a handy place to hide things, like stolen goods and the occasional corpse.
He'd never planned to hide himself here, however. Cadia regarded the rubble- strewn passage with a mix of dismay and curiosity. Cery handed her the lamp and pointed in one direction.
"In a hundred paces or so you'll see a grate high on the left wall. Beyond it is an alley between two houses. There'll be grooves in the wall to help you climb up, and the grate should hinge inward. Go to one of your neighbours and tell them there are robbers in your house. If they find the bodies, say they're the robbers and suggest one turned on the other."
"What if they don't find them?"
"Drag them into the passages and don't let anyone into the cellar until the smell goes away."
She looked even more ill, but nodded and straightened her back. He felt a pang of affection at her bravery, and hoped she wouldn't run into more assassins, or be punished some other way for helping him. He stepped close and kissed her firmly.
"Thank you," he said quietly. "It's been a pleasure."
She smiled, her eyes sparkling for a moment.
"You be careful," she told him.
"Always am. Now go."
She hurried away. He couldn't risk staying to watch her leave. Gol moved forward to lead the way and Anyi remained at the rear as they made their way through the crumbling passages. After several steps something slammed behind them. Cery stopped and looked back.
"Cadia?" Gol muttered. "The grille closing as she climbed up to the street?"
"It's a long way for the sound to travel," Cery said.
"That wasn't the sound of a grate on bricks or stone," Anyi whispered. "It was ... something wooden."
A rattle followed. The sound of disturbed bricks and stones. Cery felt a chill run down his back. "Go. Hurry. But quietly."
Gol held his lamp high, but they could only manage breaking into a jog now and then with so much rubble on the passage floor. Cery bit back a curse more than once, regretting not tidying things up a little bit more. Then, after they'd continued along a straight section of tunnel, Gol cursed and skidded to a halt. Looking over the big man's shoulder, Cery saw that the roof ahead had collapsed recently, leaving them in a dead end. He spun about and they hurried back toward the last junction they had passed.
Anyi sighed as they reached the turn. "We're making tracks."
Looking down, Cery saw footprints in the dust. The hope that the pursuit might follow the tracks down to the dead end was dashed as he realised that Gol's now led down the side passage, leaving plenty of evidence they'd backtracked.
But if there's another opportunity to set down false tracks ...
None came, however. Relief surged through him as they finally reached the connecting passage to the main part of the Thieves' Road. Once again he regretted not anticipating the situation he was in: while he'd disguised the entry to the isolated tunnels, he'd made no effort to conceal the exit from anyone exploring within.
Once the door was closed behind them, they looked around at the cleaner, better- maintained passage they were standing in. There was nothing they could use to block the door and prevent their pursuers from leaving the old passages.
"Where to?" Gol asked.
They moved faster now, shuttering the lamps so that only the thinnest beam of light illuminated the way. Once Cery would have travelled in the dark, but he'd heard stories of traps being set up to defend other Thieves' territories, by enterprising robbers or by the mysterious Sligs. Even so, the pace Gol set was precariously fast and Cery worried that his friend would not be able to dodge any dangers he hurried into.
Soon Cery was breathing hard, his chest aching and his legs growing unsteady. Gol drew ahead a little, but slowed after a while and looked back. He paused and waited for Cery, but his frown didn't fade and he didn't move on as Cery caught up.
The lurch Cery's heart made was like a stab of pain. He whirled around to see only darkness behind them.
"I'm here," a voice said quietly, then soft footsteps preceded her out of the gloom. "I stopped to see if I could hear them following." Her expression was grim. "They are. There's more than one." She waved a hand as she hurried closer. "Get going. They're not far behind us."
Cery followed as Gol raced onward. The big man set an even faster pace. He chose a twisting route, but they did not lose their pursuers – which suggested they knew the passages as well as he and Cery. Gol drew closer to the Guild passages, but whoever followed was clearly not sufficiently intimidated by magicians to let their prey go.
They were nearing Cery's secret entrance into the tunnels under the Guild. They won't dare follow me there. Unless they didn't know where the passages led. If they follow, they'll discover that the Guild leave their underground ways unguarded. Which meant that Skellin would find out as well. Not only will I never be able to escape that way again, but I will have to warn the Guild. They will fill the passages in and then our safest way to Sonea and Lilia will be gone.
He regarded the Guild passages as an escape route of last resort. If there was any alternative ...
Twenty strides or so from the entrance to the Guild passages a sound came from behind, confirming that the assassins were close. Too close – there would not be time to open the secret door before they caught up. When Gol slowed to look back at Cery – his eyebrows raised in a silent question – Cery slipped past him and headed in a new direction.
He had one other alternative. It was a riskier one. It might even lead them into greater danger than that which they fled. But at least their pursuers would be in as much danger, if they dared to follow.
Gol, realising what Cery intended, cursed under his breath. But he didn't argue. He grabbed Cery's arm to slow him, and took the lead again.
"Madness," he muttered, then raced toward Slig City.
It had been over a decade – nearly two – since dozens of street urchins had made a new home in the tunnels after the destruction of their neighbourhood. They soon became the subject of scary stories told in bolhouses and to terrify children into obedience. It was said that the Sligs never ventured into the sunlight and only emerged at night via sewers and cellars to steal food and play tricks on people. Some believed that they had bred into spindly, pale things with huge eyes that allowed them to see in the dark. Others said they looked like any other street urchin, until they opened their mouths to reveal long fangs. What all agreed on was that to venture into Slig territory was to invite death. From time to time someone would test that belief. Most never returned, but a few had crawled out again, bleeding from stab wounds delivered by silent, unseen attackers in the dark.
Locals left out offerings, hoping to avoid subterranean invasions of their homes. Cery, whose territory overlapped the Sligs' in one corner, had arranged for someone to put food in one of the tunnels every few days, the sack marked with a picture of his namesake, the little rodent ceryni.
It had been a while since he'd checked to make sure they were still doing so. If they haven't, then I'm probably not going to get a chance to punish them for it.
Soon he spotted the markers that warned they were crossing into Slig territory. Then he stopped seeing them. He could hear Anyi's quick breathing behind him. Had the assassins dared to follow?
"Don't," Anyi gasped as he slowed to look over his shoulder. "They're ... right ... behind ... us."
He had no breath to utter a curse. Air rasped in and out of his lungs. His whole body ached, and his legs wobbled as he forced them to keep jogging onward. He made himself think of the danger Anyi was in. She would be the first one the assassins killed if they caught up. He couldn't let that happen.
Something grabbed at his ankles and he toppled forward. The ground wasn't as flat or hard as he expected, but heaved and rolled, and muffled curses were coming from it. Gol – now invisible in utter darkness. The lamps had gone out. Cery rolled aside.
"Shut up," a voice whispered.
"Do it, Gol," Cery ordered. Gol fell silent.
Back down the passage, footsteps grew louder. Moving lights appeared, filtering through a curtain of roughly woven fabric that Cery did not recall encountering. It must have been dropped down after we passed it. The footsteps slowed and stopped. A sound came from another direction – more hurried footsteps. The lights moved away as their bearers continued in pursuit.
After a long pause, several sighs broke the silence. A shiver ran down Cery's spine as he realised he was surrounded by several people. A thin beam of light appeared. One of the lamps. It was being held by a stranger.
Cery looked up at a young man, who was staring back at him.
"Who?" the man asked.
"Ceryni of Northside."
Excerpted from The Traitor Queen by Trudi Canavan. Copyright © 2013 Trudi Canavan. Excerpted by permission of Orbit.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The beauty of Trudi's universe of characters is that she continues to move them through complex and engaging situations that are easily related to our world. This story wraps up another trilogy by shedding light on questions I have asked while reading the previous set (Black Magician Trilogy) and the prequel to that. Yet, so many more new questions have come about and I can't wait to see where the story goes in the future. If you love to see a fine balance of fantasy, politics, romance, and action, you are in the right place!
Good book overall, and a decent conclusion. My only gripe is that it seems like she wrapped it up a little quick, not her usual level of detail and story-telling. It seemed to me like she just wanted to wrap it up and move on to a new trilogy in this world. Still it was an enjoyable read and I look forward to more in this world of hers.
If you're looking for action, you won't find much of it in this book. Yes we see the final showdown between the Ashaki and the Traitors but it didn't last very long (as wars tend to -we're still in Afghanistan). It was quite predictable too (hint: none of the major characters die), king doesn't surrender and kills himself. It didn't seem like the author had a clear grasp of what goes on in a real war. They make a big deal of sending Sonea to Sachaka with all of the guild's powers but she barely used any of it during the final battle. Also, I just couldn't seem to care enough about the whole Skellin vs Cery/Anyi/Lillia thing - especially how Lillia overwhelmed two magicians so quickly to save her lesbian lover. 2 Stars.