The Traitor’s Game – Who Decides If You’re a Traitor or a Hero?

Book Review : The Curious Affair of The Witch At Wayside Cross

By Jennifer A. Nielsen

Spoiler Alert!



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. (Courtesy of

Adult Point of View

Who is the traitor? Kestra fights against betraying her country. But what constitutes betrayal? The current government usurped the throne from the Dallisor’s reign. The Dallisors now support Endrick and his ruthless rule. Who has the right to rule? The Halderians previously ruled Antora, but they kidnapped Kestra and seem too willing to forfeit her life. The Coracks violently oppose Endrick, but their leader also places no value on life over his ambitions. What is a girl to do? Accept an offer of marriage?

“Was that a flirtation, a way of teasing him into another visit? Or was she politely avoiding any further connection to him? I couldn’t tell, which frustrated me to no end, but I hoped it was the latter. She was already being forced to commit treason against Antora. Her schedule was full.” (p.139)

The Traitor’s Game pulled me in two different directions, at times I was laughing and then I was biting my nails the rest of the time.  Nielsen is a master at balancing every scene with banter and moving the action forward at a clipping pace. I love how the secrets are slowly revealed and each one adds a new poignancy to the plot.

The Traitor’s Game is written from two POV’s – Kestra and Simon. The danger of multiple view points is getting confused or adoring one character while hating the other. Thankfully neither of those circumstances prevailed here. The characters are the driving force in a novel, that make it interesting. In this case, we have a cast of note worthy characters. Here are a few of the characters:

Kestra Dallisor– She has never been in favor with her father, and even though she is a privileged Dallisor, she has always been an outsider. Her position is further emphasized by her relationship with Trina, who thinks Kestra has had a beautiful life of luxury. While it’s true that Kestra was wealthy and didn’t know the plight of the common man she is more hated than any other woman in Antora. I liked Kestra because she didn’t back down, even when she appeared to acquiesce, she was only biding her time for a better attack. She also has a knack for acquiring knives.

“Gabe called for me to wait, but he had to secure his horse first, giving me a good lead. At some point, he would realize I also had his knife.” (p. 312)

Simon Hatch – He has a history with Kestra, which gives him a good reason to hate her. She nearly had him killed all to gain favor with her father, well, that and a simple misunderstanding. Simon is loyal, trying to live up to the expectations of his adoptive father and navigate the turnings of his own heart. He knows Kestra can’t be trusted, and yet he sees a side of her that no one else does and he can’t help falling for her – even though he was warned to safeguard his heart. Conflicted over Kestra, he struggles because he doesn’t want to be at odds with her while still holding to his values.

Trina – She is a waif who conceals multiple secrets. In ways, she is more prideful than Kestra and is certainly even more hot tempered. Her main motivation is to be accepted rather than be an outsider. She has tried to buy Tenger’s trust with revealing her father’s secrets and is complicit in the plot to discover the Olden Blade. Even Kestra gains some compassion for Trina, she knows better than to trust her – she is too broken to have pure motives.

Sir Henry Dallisor – He is a secondary character, but as Kestra’s father he has played an important role in her growth. As one of the privileged Dallisors he is intent on keeping his position and wealth, even at the expense of his daughter. We learn he only had one weakness, and that was the love he had for his wife. He reminds me of a mob boss, but one who wants others to do the dirty work for him.

Tenger – He is the leader of the Corack rebellion, and is also willing to use people for his end purposes – making him not that much different than Henry Dallisor. The primary difference in their character some from the fact that Tenger believes he fights for a righteous cause while Henry Dallisor doesn’t care about the right side, only being right.

If you like strong female characters, adventure, plot twists and danger – with a dash of magic this is the right book for you. And, don’t forget the right amount of romance! This novel is a clean fantasy and appropriate for teens and adults. Because of the complexity I believe high school students will enjoy it more than middle school readers. I highly recommend The Traitor’s Game! I can tell you who decides if you’re a traitor or a hero – the winner. But, who will be the winner in this exciting series by Nielsen?

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

  • Michelle

If you like this one try:

The Gray Wolf Throne – Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

The Alloy of Law of Brandon Sanderson

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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