A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Traitor's Game is the first in a planned fantasy trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen, author of the Ascendance and Mark of the Thief trilogies. Some of her series have been for kids ages 8 and 10. This book is aimed at a slightly older tweens-and-up audience, mostly thanks to romantic elements like feelings of attraction and a few brief kisses. There's lots of action and violence, some of it fantasy and some real-world, that isn't gory but does mention blood a few times. Torture with magical devices describes pain in some detail. Protagonist Kestra defies gender stereotypes by preferring weapons training and exploring the outdoors, but her character needs work when it comes to how she treats people and lets her temper get the better of her. It's free of profanity and any mention of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco, making it OK for tweens who are ready to add a dash of romance to their fantasy adventures.
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What's the story?
In THE TRAITOR'S GAME, Kestra, who's 16, has been happily living away from her tyrannical father, second in power only to the king. Unexpectedly called back home, Kestra suspects that she'll have to face an arranged marriage when she gets there. But a rebel faction has other ideas about how Kestra can be useful, so they kidnap her while she's on the road. Using threats against the people she cares about, the rebels force Kestra to undertake a dangerous mission, one that will force her to betray her family. As her feelings for the rebel Simon grow, she becomes less and less sure of whom to trust, and whom to betray. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Kestra will have to navigate a tangled web of dark secrets, including a shocking truth about herself.
Is it any good?
A veteran of fantasies for kids, author Jennifer A. Nielsen makes a switch to older middle-grade kids by adding a dash of romance to this action-packed fantasy adventure. The Traitor's Game offers intrigue, plot twists, secrets, magic, an evil king, a ruthless rebel leader, and two teen protagonists struggling to find their way through it all.
Kestra, 16, and Simon, a year or two older, take turns narrating the story. But instead of adding insight to events and motives, the voices of Kestra and Simon are too similar, and the reader may sometimes have to pause to remember who's talking now. The plot moves along at a good pace, with some predictability especially for teen readers, but some surprises along the way, too. Fantasy action/adventure fans will enjoy the rollercoaster ride to the open ending that doesn't satisfy but should leave them eager for the next installment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why fantasies like The Traitor's Game are so popular. Which fantasy series are your favorites? How does this trilogy start compare?
Is Kestra a good role model? What are some of her character strengths and weaknesses? What about Simon?
How much violence is OK in books? Does violence in a fantasy story affect you differently from violence in a real-world story? What about violence in books vs. in movies or TV?
- Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Press
- Publication date: February 27, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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