eARC REVIEW: The Traitor’s Tunnel by Cal Spivey

34031351Title: The Traitor’s Tunnel

Author: C. M. Spivey

Expected Publication Date: June 20th, 2017

Rating: ★★★★/ 4 Stars

Genre: Fantasy YA

Witch-blooded robber Bridget has made a reputation for herself in the capital city, but she’s not interested in the attention of the Thieves’ Guild–and she’s not bothered by the rumors of urchin kidnappings, either. With winter coming, she’s looking out for herself and no one else.

Until she picks the wrong pocket, and recognizes her estranged brother Teddy.

Young craftsman Theodor arrives in the capital ready to take the final step toward his dream career as Lord Engineer of Arido. His apprenticeship with a renowned city engineer comes with new rules and challenges, but it’s worth it for the exposure to the Imperial Council.

While spying on her brother, Bridget overhears a secret meeting that reveals a cruel plot. After more than a decade apart, Theodor and Bridget must reunite to stop a traitor whose plan threatens not only their city, but the whole empire.

I received a copy of this eArc from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Traitor’s Tunnel is a novella set six years before the events of Spivey’s From Under the Mountain. It revolves around two characters, siblings named Theodor and Bridget who got estranged thirteen years prior when Bridget left the witch clan where she grew up.

The world building Spivey created in this novella was a mixture of magic, practiced by Bridget as she thieves and other mentioned witches, and architecture which Theodor is especially interested in. Theodor takes a position of internship with a renounced engineer in hopes of becoming a known name. Theodor has this innocent character that could be seen as naive but he goes through a nicely paced development when the plot unveils some very sinister things going on. Bridget on the other hand is a survivor who is very much jaded and experienced in the ways of the streets where she steals off of the wealthy.

What I really loved was the normalcy and ease of which people used pronouns that aren’t cisgender. There is a character who introduces herself with her name and usage of pronouns and I just liked that very much. There is the usage of gender-neutral terms when referring to strangers. Also: there is this bit where Theodor mentions how he left Sitosen Castle, which I understood as the witch clan, as soon as he claimed his gender. The language used in this phrase made me so happy.

There is also cute romance going on. Theodor is panromantic ace with a same-sex partner named Leander. Bridget is mentioned to have had relations with this guy called Orran in the past but is currently seeing and very much adorably smitten by a woman named Keaton hence she is bisexual which is what first made me want to read this book. Keaton is described a having ‘reddish-brown’ skin so that is extra fun points for diversity.

I usually roll my eyes at the lack of brown and black people in fantasy series that can go for three or six books but this small novella had more diversity in its pages.

Also: both Keaton and Leander have their own aspirations separate from their partners’ lives and that was cool. They didn’t feel like accessories to Bridget and Theodor but rather as intelligent supportive partners.

The plot has a nice pace to it, the universe explained very nicely, and the relationships the characters have felt genuine. I really enjoyed reading this book and I’ll be looking forward to anything Spivey writes since he plans to represent queer diverse relationships set in well written fantastical universes!

I don’t know if we’ll read about Bri and Teddy but I definitely look forward to reading From Under the Mountain which has a main f/f relationship!

P.S. The cover is absolutely gorgeous and I can’t wait for everyone to get a chance to read this. We need more books that normalize queer people in fantasy set worlds.

Follow Cal Spivey on twitter and support him so he can write us more of this stuff!

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