The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer Nielsen


Goodreads: The Traitor’s Game
Series: Traitor’s Game #1
Source: Library
Published: 2018


After three years in exile on the Lava Fields, Kestra Dallisor has been summoned home.  But she is abducted on the way, forced by a band of rebels to betray her own family and find a legendary blade–the only weapon that can kill the immortal king.  Kestra initially plans to find a way to betray the rebels.  But she has a history with one of them, a teenage boy named Simon, and she begins to wonder where her loyalties truly lie.

Star Divider


I had enjoyed Jennifer Nielsen’s The Scourge, so I was excited to see her release a new series, especially one that promised intrigue and action.  However, it quickly become clear that The Traitor’s Game is little more than a collection of stale YA elements.  Kestra Dallisor is the sassy heroine who thinks she’s a lot smarter than she actually is.  Simon is the forbidden love interest, who all too quickly throws away his political convictions for the girl he fancies.  Together, they are at the center of a heist so nonsensical it threatens the suspension of disbelief.  Who needs a believable plot when drama could happen instead?  I kept reading hoping the story would improve, but the ending made me dislike the book more than anything else had up until that point.

I have bemoaned the state of YA a fair bit on the blog.  Too often YA books follow trends.  Too often they recycle elements that have proven popular in other books.  The Traitor’s Game is a prime example of these tendencies as it reads essentially like any number of YA books currently on the market.  Take a protagonist from here, a love interest from there, a heist plot from there, and you have yourself the Standard YA.  It raises the question of why I should invest myself in this series–I have already read this story several times.

Of course, it is entirely possible to take a number of common elements or tropes and weave them together into a story that feels original.  Perhaps the world will strike readers unique or simply the way the elements are combined.  However, this is not the case with The Traitor’s Game.  It feels like someone studied popular YA books and came up with the formula for a successful title in the same way that someone apparently writes Hallmark Christmas movies.  Take a common plot outline (rich girl falls in love with rebel boy while overthrowing dark lord), choose a few of the most popular plot elements (legendary weapon, immortal king, prophecy), change the names of the characters and the setting and you’re done.  Maybe some people will love it just as people still love watching Hallmark Christmas movies.  But I wasn’t impressed.

I admit that I was for a time still sort of amused by the plot–enough for me to keep plowing through the book, at any rate.  However, the ending really ruined the book for me.  It was too sudden, too pat.  Perhaps it was supposed to be shocking or dramatic,but it came so far out of left field that I really felt nothing at all.  And I just did not buy into it.  (Potential spoilers ahead.)  The characters are now doing things, not because they make sense or because they think these things are good ideas–but because the prophecy says they should.  What a disappointment.

The Traitor’s Game promised to be an exciting read, full of intrigue, danger, and romance.  Instead, it left me feeling betrayed by how unoriginal the story is.  Sequels are coming out, but I have no interest in reading them.

2 star review

12 thoughts on “The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer Nielsen

  1. Jordyn says:

    Sorry that this book didn’t work out for you – but thanks for the review to potentially help others who might have been wanting to read it!


  2. MetalPhantasmReads says:

    That sucks this book didn’t work out. I’m gonna her “false prince” series first, since that one is very popular and gets a lot of praise to start with. I haven’t read many reviews on this book, but you always bring up great discussions and points on the book 🙂


  3. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Ah I completely get what you mean about standard YA fare- I’m finding it harder and harder to engage with these stories- I’ve just read them all before! Multiple times! It’s a pity the ending ruined what enjoyment there was as well. Excellent review!


    • Krysta says:

      I’ve started trying to read more international YA just for something different. It’s really cool. I just read The Head of the Saint (from Brazil) and I don’t know if US audiences would even consider it a YA because it has none of the usual YA tropes.


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