Spolier Free Summary: Betrayer’s Bane by Michael G. Manning is the final book in the Embers of Illeniel series. Tyrion is a man who was motivated to do monstrous things after all the horrific events he’d been forced to live through. He’s pushed to the edge of a choice, he can become a hero or give in to his hatred and rage. Doing so is the only way to save humanity. This was my first ever Book Cover of the Month winner. Let me say this up front, I’ve never been so glad to judge a book by it’s cover. If you want to see an interview form the artist, just click here.
Character: I’ve spoken about sympathy a few times, and I always made it a point to mention there is a distinction between sympathy and likability. Tyrion, and most of this cast, are horrible. The only thing more horrid than their actions is what was done to place them in this path. I had an advantage here that I don’t think other readers had. I read this book first. Now I’m eagerly reading the first book in the series simply to find out how Tyrion came to be the way he is and act the way he acts. He’s a brilliant character with devastating flaws that are all born of circumstances he couldn’t control. Readers will rip through the pages to find out if he can at least control himself.
Exposition: This was outstanding. Every beat and every explanatory comment is placed exactly where it must go. I can’t think of a single place in the novel that slowed down or felt info dumpy.
World building: Here I have to remember I came in at the end of the series. As a stand alone book, this is probably the weaker part of the book, but that’s like saying Superman’s eyeball is a little less impenetrable than his chest. As one who came in at the end of a series, I simply had to acknowledge that there were some aspects about the world and magic system that I wasn’t gong to get a Cliff Notes version of. Why this is still a high quality point of discussion is that even lost, knowing I didn’t know two-thirds of what I needed to know, the world is still immersive where it needs to be.
Dialogue: For my money, one of the most intense series of scenes are the interactions between Tyrion and Thillmarius. This is the main reason why I, personally, would recommend any readers actually start with this book. That’s just my opinion, but it creates a beautiful tension that other readers don’t get if they start at book one. Those conversations on the surface seem to be a man sorry for what his people had done, but the reader learns though this tool that Thillmarius is personally responsible for some of Tyrion’s torments. There’s no doubt Thillmarius is trying to make amends, but reading this dialogue had me begging to know, “What did he do?” Now that I’m reading Book One, the reward is all the higher. The short sentences and contradicting (and seemingly unrelated) verbal banter between characters elevates the tension in a way I’ve not seen in a long time.
Description: I’m pretty forgiving with description. If anyone argued that it was a bit hard to see some of the characters, I probably wouldn’t punch him, but the placement of the descriptive phrases allows my imagination to take over, which is preferable to me than painting a scene with words.
Overall: It’s only May, but so far, Betrayer’s Bane is absolutely the best book I’ve read this year. It took me a while to realize that what I was reading is the tone and depth that the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy should have had. It’s even more of an appropriate comparison when you realize that this series is indeed a prequel to Manning’s first series. A fair warning: This book is dark. It has subject matter and events that are simply hard to face. This isn’t the series you read to feel better about humanity. What it is, however, is a wonderfully tragic look at a man’s disillusionment and ultimate fall to destruction. If you can face some of the content, and you love fiction that’s brutal and amazing, this is the book for you.
Thanks for reading,