Publisher: Self published
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Received From: Review copy from the author
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.
Set seven years before the events of From Under the Mountain, The Traitor’s Tunnel is the story of two young people presented with a choice–to protect themselves, or to protect others–the consequences of which will change their lives forever.
GENDER: transgender, cisgender
SEXUALITY: panromantic, asexual, bisexual
PAIRING: M/M, F/F
TROPES: apprenticeship, magic abilities, long lost siblings
TAGS: fantasy, existing relationship, homelessness, new adult
WARNINGS: kidnapping, violence
Leander returned the pressure. “Are you happy to see me?”
“More than I can say,” Theodor replied.
“May I kiss you?”
C.M. Spivey is an author that I’ve followed on twitter for a while now, watching for updates on his writings, so when he asked for people to sign up for an ARC of The Traitor’s Tunnel, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on this early! Gods, but I was not disappointed. This book is really incredible, from the characters to the plot to the way Spivey and his characters handle life.
Teddy and Bridget, long lost siblings reunited through unforeseen circumstances, are the main characters. They’re very clearly siblings, but they are so incredibly different. Both of them have the same convictions–they’re willing to risk themselves in order to save others–but where Teddy is more nervous and needs a bit of handholding, Bridget, who has been out on her own and homeless for the last 13 years, is far more scrappy and resourceful, quickly putting together a plan and finding the best solutions to achieve the things she wants.
The plot is not overtly twisty turny, but more subtle in the way it places clues in front of you and begs you to fill in the gaps alongside the characters, or even before they do. Spivey flawlessly weaves the story together from the very beginning, leaving you feeling a bit dumbstruck at certain moments of textual revelation.
One thing I absolutely adored and am so happy with is the way this world Spivey has created handles gender and sexuality. From the very first chapter, we find the normalization of gender neutral terms until a person specifies which pronouns they use, and it succeeds in standardizing the concept of sharing your gender pronouns upon first meeting a person, whether you’re cis, trans, or nonbinary. Also, in Sitosen, the clan Teddy and Bridget are from, children declare their gender at a certain age, without having the binary forced upon them. I’m unclear whether this is standard for this world, as of yet, but I deeply appreciate the fact that even part of it is so open to children declaring their gender without the pressure of outside influences.
The people in this world are similarly open to sexualities on all ends of the spectrums. There are multiple queer relationships–Bridget is in an F/F relationship throughout, but has had relationships with male identified characters as well; Teddy is in an M/M relationship throughout the whole of the novel as well. Not only that, but there is little to no questioning of anyone’s sexual preferences. In fact, within Teddy’s point of view, he clearly states that he’s asexual:
He had no interest in sex, and the arrival of his partner did nothing to change that. He and Leander had only made love a few times in their relationship, and only under the most romantic of circumstances.
There is a moment where Bridget, after observing her brother and Leander, internally wonders at their lack of sexual activity, but within moments, realizes that it’s none of her business and never broached again.
Additionally, there is an incredibly refreshing emphasis on consent. Even within established relationships, the characters make sure to clearly obtain consent before kissing or doing anything remotely sexual.
Racial diversity was also a huge plus to the story. There are multiple POC characters, including both of the love interests, who get just as much page time and importance in the grand scheme of things as the white main characters. Both Leander and Keaton, Teddy’s and Bridget’s respective love interests, were the perfect partners for our main characters. Leander was a calming, rational influence to Teddy’s anxiety, and Keaton was tough but soft-hearted and able to match Bridget’s unfailing determination.
All in all, this book was a great success for me, and I look forward to much more from this author in the future.
C.M. Spivey is a speculative fiction writer, author of high fantasy FROM UNDER THE MOUNTAIN and the paranormal series, “The Unliving”. His enduring love of fantasy started young. Now, he explores the rules and ramifications of magic in his own works—and as a trans, panromantic asexual, he’s committed to queering his favorite genres. In his spare time, he plans his next tattoo (there will always be a next tattoo) and watches too much Netflix. Anything left over is devoted to his tireless quest to make America read more. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his darling husband Matt and adorable dog Jay.