The Secret Origins of Traitor’s Blade

Sebastien de Castell Secrets 4 Comments

I often get asked where I got the ideas for The Greatcoats–the swordfighting travelling judges at the heart of Traitor’s Blade and Knight’s Shadow. Here’s where a few of the ideas came from.

Itinerant Judges

During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, England saw the rise of itinerant judges – travelling magistrates who would go through counties and shires hearing cases and enforcing the King’s laws. I imagined what might happen to one of these judges when they arrived in some small town where the facts of a case might be hard to uncover and where wealthy and powerful individuals could muster as many soldiers as they needed to avoid justice. Would anyone really be foolish enough to try and enforce the King’s law in a highly corrupted county hundreds of miles away from any royal support? As it turns out, Falcio, Kest, and Brasti are exactly that foolish.

Heroic Fantasy / Dark Fantasy

general leading his army in war

I loved heroic fantasy growing up – reading about flawed yet noble human beings struggling to do the right things for the right reasons. These days more of what I read leans towards dark fantasy, where heroes are products oft heir world – meaner, tougher, and full of moral ambiguity. With Traitor’s Blade, I set out to explore what would happen to the types of heroic characters I admired as a kid if they lived in a darker, more cynical world. Would the character change and become corrupted by their environment until for them, as for most dark fantasy heroes, the end justified the means? Or would the world around them be forced to change through their influence. In book 1 of the Greatcoats series, Falcio has seen his king deposed as a tyrant and the ideals he fought for rejected by nobles and commoners alike. Even Falcio’s closest friends, Kest and Brasti, begin to question whether it’s time to set aside their beliefs for the greater good. At the darkest point of his life, Falcio is forced to choose between abandoning his principles or seeing the country fall into tyranny.

American politics

Well, this will sound a bit strange, but American politics figures prominently in the cultural backdrop of Traitor’s Blade. In North America it’s now commonplace for political operatives to take the most noble and remarkable sacrifices of their enemies and twist them into evidence of inner corruption and moral perversion. Part of this can be blamed on the political machinery of the modern era, but much of it falls on an electorate that has become so cynical that every virtue is seen as evidence of a deeper vice.

Although the Greatcoats series takes place in a world that most closely parallels our own fifteenth century, I wanted to see how that kind of political intrigue and cynicism would impact my heroes. In Traitor’s Blade, the Greatcoats have spent a decade fighting to bring some small measure of justice to those living under the feckless rule of lords and dukes. But as soon as the nobles reassert their power by deposing the king, the populace turns against the Greatcoats, calling them Trattari, or ‘tattered cloaks’, a name used for traitors.

The Coats

The idea for the coats themselves came from an actual greatcoat that my brother bought me one year. When I was working as an actor I found I’d always bring this coat because no matter how cold it got or how long I had to wait before filming a scene, I could pretty much carry everything I needed in it and stay warm and ready to go. Alas, mine doesn’t have secret bone plates to protect from being hit by swords nor does it have the various tricks, traps, and potions that the characters in Traitor’s Blade rely on.

Comments 4

  1. My new favorite everything; Author, book, series, reader, characters, literary voice, ethical and moral subtext, conflicted hero, witty banter, political constructs, …

    And ” …” , of course, means “everything “.

    D. J. Kennard – go ahead, look me up- you’ll only be disappointed.

    1. Post

      Thanks so much for the kind words! Or, as Brasti would say, “Well, of course it’s nice to have one’s greatness recognized.”

  2. Just read Traitor’s Blade, recommended by my wife. And what a superb book it is! One of the most enjoyable reading experiences I have had! Looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

    1. Thanks, Dave! Delighted to hear you enjoyed traitor’s Blade and very much hope you enjoy the rest of the series as well!

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