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Traitors' Gate    by Kate Elliott order for
Traitors' Gate
by Kate Elliott
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Traitors' Gate is the third (following Spirit Gate and Shadow Gate) in Kate Elliott's exceptional Crossroads series that just keeps on getting better. It's set in the Hundred, where just laws were once overseen by godlike Guardians, assisted by Reeves, bonded with giant eagles. Now the majority of the Guardians are corrupt, and the Hundred is at war.

In Shadow Gate, Marit (once a Reeve and the long lost love of series lead Joss) awakened as a Guardian and allied with Jothinin and Kirit, hoping to work against the corrupt Guardians who had recruited the Star of Life army to subjugate the cities of the Hundred. Joss became Marshall of Argent Hall and allied with Qin Captain Anji and his wife Mai against them. Anji's dangerous heritage (as half brother to an Emperor) had forced them to flee to the Hundred, accompanied by Mai's young uncle Shai - he sees ghosts and sought his missing brother Hari, who had, unbeknownst to Shai, become a Guardian.

Now as Traitors' Gate begins, Anji's half brother, the Emperor, is dead. His cousin rules the Sirniakan Empire and sends Anji's mother (along with five hundred Qin soldiers) with an unpalatable offer that will be hard for Anji to refuse - one that affects Mai, who has just born their son Atani. Kesh, who was sent south as a spy, returns with Anji's mother. He loves Mai's Silver friend Miravia, who flees an arranged marriage and is shunned by her family. Shai and Zubaidit had been sent north to garner intelligence of the enemy and are separated. Bai infiltrates a Star of Life army unit captained by Arras, an honorable soldier. Shai finds his brother Hari and later journeys into the Wild and makes a pact with wildings.

Joss, Anji and others learn that it is possible to destroy the Guardians they had believed invulnerable, but disagree on what to do with their cloaks (which when freed result in new Guardians). The allies keep secrets from each other and dissension brews as Joss suspects Anji of empire building. There are major battles and private assassinations and the balance of power shifts in the Hundred. But the most engrossing stories are those of lovers - Joss and Marit who have found each other again but cannot come together; Kesh who redeems himself but whose love for Miravia seems doomed; and the seemingly inseparable Anji and Mai who are pulled apart by fateful events and by the manipulation of Anji's ruthless Qin mother.

Traitors' Gate is the best episode yet in a superb series that is far from over. Though, as it ends - and the prophecy that 'an outlander will save them' is fulfilled - the local war is largely won, it seems clear that the Sinriakan Empire will soon look north with covetous eyes. A major series theme, that of the corruption of power, now overshadows one of the most appealing characters, Anji. I can't wait for the next book to see how that - and his now very rocky relationship with Mai - unfolds.

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