A Man Betrayed by J.V. Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Part 2 of J.V. Jones’ Book of Words trilogy is pretty much on a par with the first one. That is to say, I read it and basically enjoyed it, but still wish I hadn’t read her later stand alone, The Barbed Coil, first. To be fair, this trilogy were Ms. Jones first published works, and it is good to see that she got better with later stories.
The storyline continues from The Baker’s Boy, with Jack and Melli still on the run from their respective troubles at Castle Harvell, the evil Prince Kylock still maneuvering to take control of the kingdom, and various other nobles and clergy adding to the political machinations.
It is the political intrigue that keeps this book interesting. There is a lot of backstage intrigue, alliances made and betrayed, and no one is completely who they seem to be. Unfortunately, the characters are still a bit flat and clichéd- Jack is the innocent youth with potential he doesn’t quite grasp, Melli is the spoiled young noblewoman who discovers a strength and resolve no one gave her credit for, and Prince Kylock is the cold and ambitious heir who kills the ill and bedridden king in order to take over the throne. There is some growth in a few characters, but nothing too far outside the expected. I still find the interspersed fill-in-the-blanks scenes with Bodger and Grift a bit on the annoying side, despite the humor in their exchanges. The one character I do enjoy is the boy, Nabber. He is fun and interesting, with a bit more personality than some others, even though his is not a main plot line.
There is not a lot of in-depth world building in the book, as well. The world is made up of the usual rival kingdoms, each vying for dominance. It’s a decent setting and serves the story well.
All that aside, A Man Betrayed is still not a bad read, even with its shortcomings. The plotlines around the various major characters, as well as some minor ones, are drawn rather nicely together, pulling the story to its climax. It reads fairly quickly with good pacing. I would recommend the two I have read so far (and I will go on to the third to see how the whole picture plays out) for those looking for a decent, but not extremely deep, fantasy series.
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