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In a Time of Treason
David Keck
Tor, 352 pages

In a Time of Treason
David Keck
David Keck was born and raised in Winnipeg Manitoba. After completing degrees in English Literature/History and Education in Winnipeg he travelled to the University of Sussex to get an MA in creative writing. In 2004, he moved to the United States to marry a New Yorker and he is currently teaching middle school in New York's Washington Heights.

David Keck Website
ISFDB Bibliography

A review by Greg L. Johnson

In the medieval fantasy world created by David Keck, being the first born son of a Lord is a pretty good deal. You stand to one day inherit a title, land, and loyalty of the people who go along with it. Being the second son is not nearly as good a thing. The latter is the situation faced by a young Durand Col at the start of In the Eye of Heaven, the novel that preceded In a Time of Treason.

As book two opens, Durand has found a place as a knight in service to Lord Lamoric. Times are uncertain, and when Lamoric and other Lords are called by the King to journey to his court and renew their oaths of loyalty, they are forced on a harsh voyage which ends in betrayal. That voyage is the scene setter for what quickly emerges as the theme of In a Time of Treason; when loyalties break down, no one is safe from betrayal, and suspicion rules the day. After fleeing the King's court, Lamoric and his men find themselves defending their home from the open rebellion and invasion of Radamor, a man whom they made an enemy of in spectacular fashion in In the Eye of Heaven.

In many ways In a Time of Treason is a fairly standard medieval fantasy. There are two elements, however, that serve to distinguish David Keck's story from many others. First, the oaths and sense of loyalties that form much of the structure of a medieval society have a second purpose here. Not only do loyalties bind the people together into a social structure, they also serve to bind magic and fantastic beings into the land itself. Thus, acts of betrayal between people also serve to loose the holds on magic that would otherwise be held in check. Sorcery blossoms as old loyalties are betrayed.

The other distinguishing element is the gritty reality of the characters' daily lives. There is a feeling of dirt and grit underfoot in almost every page of the text. Baths are a luxury, and during a siege, refuse piles up in the corners of the castle. This is no prettified fantasy where clean and modern looking characters romp through a medieval countryside, Keck's characters are altogether true to the medieval world they live in.

The unleashing of magic and the reality of everyday life may not seem complementary aspects in a story, but in both In the Eye of Heaven and In a Time of Treason the down-to-earth portrayal of medieval life works to heighten the effect of the magic and elements of fantasy. The magic seems more real because it is happening to characters who very much are.

The consequences of betrayal and oath-breaking also play a large part in the secondary story that runs through In a Time of Treason. Durand has fallen in love with his Lord's wife, and there is reason to believe she shares his feelings. But the betrayal of wedding vows brings a special sort of consequence in Durand's world. His struggles with his feelings of love and loyalty add a personal side to the public loyalties that are on display throughout the story, and there is good reason to believe that Durand's loyalties, both private and public, will be put to the ultimate test before the story begun in In the Eye of Heaven and continued in In a Time of Treason is brought to a fitting conclusion.

Copyright © 2008 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson hopes that reviewing the occasional fantasy novel won't ruin his reputation as a science fiction guy. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction. And, for something different, Greg blogs about news and politics relating to outdoors issues and the environment at Thinking Outside.

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