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The First Betrayal / The Sea Change
Patricia Bray
Bantam Spectra, 342 / 326 pages

The First Betrayal
The Sea Change
Patricia Bray
Patricia Bray began her career writing historical novels set in Regency-era England before making the leap to epic fantasy with the sale of her Sword of Change trilogy. A resident of upstate New York, Patricia balances her writing with a full-time career as an I/T project manager. In 2003, her novel Devlin's Luck received the Compton Crook award for the best first novel.

Patricia Bray Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

Slowly recovering from a mysterious illness which nearly destroyed both mind and body five years ago, Brother Josan has resigned himself, however reluctantly, to a life of quiet solitude as a lighthouse keeper in a remote part of the kingdom of Ikeria, where he busies himself with quiet study and the reclamation of his skills. Why exactly he has been exiled, he doesn't know; in truth, only the merest handful understand why he's been cast aside by his brothers. A chance encounter following a major storm brings him into contact with Lady Ysobel Flordelis of the Seddon Federation, whose mission of trade hides a deeper, more sinister purpose: to rekindle a revolution in Ikeria. And that chance meeting is all it takes to upset Josan's life once again. And when an assassin comes for him, Josan displays a frightening ability to defend himself, followed by momentary blackouts, and a magical power he never knew he had. He's forced to leave behind his lighthouse, and travel to Karystos, back to his superiors in the Learned Brethren to find out what secrets lie in his past.

As Josan's journey of self- and re-discovery progresses, he learns more and more about himself, both past and present. At the same time, Lady Ysobel maneuvers through the perilous waters of court politics, as she seeks allies in her attempt to revive the revolution of years past. Eventually, their paths cross, and Josan learns that his fate is tied into that of Prince Lucius, the figurehead used by the revolution five years ago. And then, the frightening, horrible truth emerges: Josan and Lucius are one and the same, with the mind of Josan the monk placed in the body of Lucius the prince, all part of a deep, dark plot whose details have yet to truly unfold. And now that they know the truth, monk and prince must work together, uneasily sharing the singular body, in an attempt to survive and extricate themselves from their troubles. Court politics, assassination attempts, ruthless nobles, cutthroat merchants, and enemies on all sides surround them, and surrender to authority may be the only way to survive the game for the time being. As for Lady Ysobel, she'll gamble, and fail, and escape to try again another day.

All of the above unfolds in The First Betrayal, the first book of the trilogy. In The Sea Change, we see how the status quo remains: Lucius/Josan is a prisoner of the throne, held hostage as an honored prisoner. Meanwhile, Lady Ysobel has returned home to the Seddon Federation, to answer for her previous failures, and to somehow rebuild her fortunes, for her gambles severely damaged her status as a proud merchant.

Then disaster strikes, and the royal family of Ikeria is wiped out, leaving Josan/Lucius alone as a legitimate heir to the throne, a monk masquerading as a prince, a traitor suspected of masterminding the whole affair, a prince turned prisoner turned monarch. Now the two men in one body must again cooperate, marshalling their forces as they attempt to consolidate their power, in order to stay alive. Once again, they'll play a deadly game of politics, pitting loyal forces against would be usurpers, and planning for the inevitable trouble looming in the distance. War between Sedda and Ikaria is brewing, and if the Ikarian factions can't unify themselves in time, the land will be vulnerable and easy pickings. Unfortunately, what no one realizes is that the Josan/Lucius merging is imperfect, and it's slowing killing them both. Luckily, they have a few tricks up their sleeves that may just allow them to win over the people they need in order to defeat Lady Ysobel and Sedda once again.

The First Betrayal and The Sea Change are the first two parts of a fascinating trilogy that works with an unusual premise. It didn't take me long to guess that Josan was really Lucius, as it's almost a given that any missing prince mentioned in the first book of a fantasy trilogy will play a part at some point, and all the clues were there. However, Patricia Bray threw us all a curveball with the way she handled the Josan/Lucius blending, and the resulting conflict/interaction between the two provides a great dynamic that fuels the direction of the plot quite nicely. Uneasy allies, occasional enemies, maybe even reluctant friends, utterly dependant on each others skills and knowledge, they're at the heart of everything going on, for good and bad. The political and economic maneuvering in this series is likewise interesting; it's not overly complex, but it's interesting to watch the ebb and flow of power and loyalties, in both Sedda and Ikeria.

I'm definitely looking forward to the final book in the trilogy to see how it all wraps up, and how the story of Josan and Lucius is resolved, for it's hard to see a way for them both to get a happy ending at this point. Bray's talent for weaving imaginative, non-cookie cutter fantasy is clearly present in this series, and it'll be interesting to see what she has planned to cap things off. I've enjoyed things so far, and I'd happily recommend these books for someone who likes politics and devious twists in their fantasy. She may not be as epic as, say, George R.R. Martin, but she satisfies nonetheless.

Copyright © 2008 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.

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