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After being bullied, Michael changes schools. The incident - and his mother's inaction in face of it - makes it hard for him to trust in people again, but it all changes when he meets Francis. Francis is the cool and tall redhead who, instead of making fun on him, joins Michael in a game of make-believe, creating a fantasy land called Evgard and its capital, Arcaster. Both boys keep their world hidden safely in a locked box, in the form of maps and poems. Until, of course, Michael gets an anonymous note in his locker saying I KNOW WHERE ARCASTER IS. Fearing that Francis has betrayed him and their secret, Michael decides to take revenge.

The book intercales between Michael and Francis lifes in reality (in third person, in Michael's POV) and in the Evgard from Michael's imagination (in first person), where they're known as Argent and Columen, a slave and the Duke's son, involved in an ongoing war between their people.


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!!This novel provide examples of:

* AccidentalTruth: [[spoiler:Michael's lies about Francis]]. He only told [[spoiler:Shipley]] that [[spoiler:Francis is gay]] as a revenge, but it turns out to be true.
* AnnoyingYoungerSibling: Luke, Francis's brother who dislikes Michael, to disastrous consequences.
* ArmouredClosetGay: Michael suggests that this is why Shipley likes to pick on gay and effeminate students.
* BlackAndGrayMorality: Michael and Argent may both have [[spoiler:betrayed their friends]], but their enemies are a homophobic bully and a sadistic rapist, respectively.
** GrayAndGreyMorality: The conflict between [[spoiler:Evgard and the Mereish]]. When the latter takes over the former, [[spoiler:Argent]] is horrified to find that they are NotSoDifferent.
* BreakTheCutie: All four of the main characters goes through a lot of breaking. Michael's experience had already started before the novel begins, when he was bullied in his old school.
* TheBully: Shipley, who is first seen cornering a boy several years younger than him and burning him with a cigarette. He is said to target gay kids specifically.
* BystanderSyndrome: Michael often behaves like this, to Francis' horror.
* CharacterDevelopment: Michael, as seen when he finally [[spoiler:stands up to Shipley]].
* ChekhovsGun: [[spoiler:lightlead windows]]. They're introduced early in the real world plotline, when Francis tells Michael about it as a new idea for Evgard.It's a type of [[spoiler:glass that slows down light, meaning what you see through a window made of lightlead glass would be what happened 30 minutes ago]]. In the climax of the Evgard plotline, Argent uses [[spoiler:the view of the half an hour late sunset through a lightlead window]] to trick some soldiers into [[spoiler:thinking there is a fire]]. It also foreshadows the real world climax in which Michael [[spoiler:is pushed out of a window by Shipley]].
* ChessMotifs: The eponymous traitor game appears to be similar to chess. Also, Francis says Michael is "playing a game that no one else knows the rules to".
* ComingOfAgeStory: for Michael, although he still has some more CharacterDevelopment to go through at the end of the novel. He learns to stand up for himself and begins to resolve his trust issues.
* ConLang: Together with [[BilingualBonus Multilingual Bonus]]. Mereish and Evgard languages combine a multitude of words from different languages spelt weirdly. Also, lots of Latin.
* ConflictingLoyalty: Michael's devotion to Evgard and to Francis, and Argent's loyalty to Evgard (specifically, Columen) and to the Mereish.
* CoolLoser: Francis, possibly as a result of being friends with Michael. Michael says that he doesn't know why Francis hangs out with someone as uncool as him.
* CrapsackWorld: Evgard, despite Michael's strong belief that Evgard is better than real life. As his imagination reflects the bullying he went through and his distrust of others, it's no wonder.
* DepravedBisexual: The Duke, who has {{Sex Slave}}s of both gender.
* DespairEventHorizon: [[spoiler: Argent, after helping his people destroy the home of his only friend, and then discovering they were exactly the same kind of evil he thought the Evgard were.]] Michael and Francis dance along it frequently, but Michael crosses it [[spoiler: after he thinks Evgard's been burned]] and Francis seems to cross it [[spoiler: after the beating by Shitley, and realizing Michael just watched]].
* DestinationDefenestration:
** In the Evgard story line, [[spoiler:Argent, in an attempt to get Columen and Iaspis to safety,]] pushes some Mereish soldiers out through some windows.
** Shitley pushes Michael through a window at one point. When Michael's mother see him, she is worried that he [[BungledSuicide jumped deliberately]]. Michael points out that if he did, he would have at least ''opened'' the window first.
* DeusAngstMachina: Michael gets it bad, but Argent? Argent [[spoiler:is captured and forced to watch all his friends get killed. He's raped, becomes the Duke's sex slave and is abused by everyone he knows. When he finally makes a friend in Columen, the Duke's son - who looks exactly like him - Argent betrays him to help his people… who turn out to be a bunch of bastards, as evil as the Duke, and who treat him as a traitor just because of his name. Even his childhood friend distrusts him… And then he dies]].
* DoubleConsciousness: Argent, due to being Mereish, but being friends with Columen, who's Evgard. His mother was also Evgard, giving him an Evgard name that makes the Mereish distrust him.
* DramaticIrony:
** Readers may realise that [[spoiler:Francis is gay]] before Michael finally learns the truth. Those who realise it before the scene where [[spoiler:Michael "[[AccidentalTruth lies]]" to Shipley about Francis being gay]] would cringe while reading it.
** From the start, it is quite obvious that Francis didn't really betray their secret. Michael's actions through the novel, however, are based on his belief that he did.
* DysfunctionJunction: The main duo consists of a former bullying victim and a [[spoiler:closeted StepfordSmiler]], and their fantasy counterparts don't fare any better at all.
* EarnYourHappyEnding: What Michael and Francis have to go through. A BittersweetEnding in case of Evgard, as [[spoiler:Argent dies protecting Columen, but his death holds the significance that Francis is more important for Michael than Evgard is]].
* EmbarrassingFirstName: Benedick. The bullies call him "Bent Dick", and Michael's first reaction is ask what the hell his mother was thinking.
* FalseFlagOperation: [[spoiler:How the Mereish enter Arcaster]].
* FalseFriend: Michael believes Francis is this, pretending to like him and Evgard just to laugh at him behind his back.
* FantasticRacism: The Mereish and the Evgard, about each other. Argent gets the worst of it, because his name is Evgard, but he's Mereish.
* FantasticSlurs: Argent, because of his Mereish looks, is called "pisciculi albus", "vermiculus" and "color seminis". He says "there are more words for freak and weird and disgusting than I can translate".
* FemaleGaze: Micheal directs this at Francis ''constantly''.
* AFriendInNeed: [[spoiler:Subverted]]. Michael [[spoiler:not only causes Francis to get beaten by the school bullies, but also fails to help him]].
* FriendlessBackground: Michael.
--> '''Francis:''' Do you always hit people? Is that how you make friends?
--> '''Michael:''' I don't know. I don't have any.
* FriendshipMoment: [[spoiler:Michael giving Evgard's stuff to Francis, and then holding hands with him]].
* GenreBusting: The real world plotline is a ComingOfAgeStory, while Evgard is in a LowFantasy setting.
* GoodFlawsBadFlaws: The main characters are jerks in their own sort of way, but the villains? They range from an homophobic bully to a pedophile rapist.
* HappinessInSlavery: Argent feels terribly guilty because he truly sees Columen as a friend, and ends up leading a life with luxuries he and his people never had.
* HaveIMentionedIAmHeterosexualToday: Michael… [[spoiler:while looking into Francis's eyes and holding hands with him]].
* HeelFaceRevolvingDoor: Argent, mostly, but it permeates the rest of the book.
* HeroesWantRedheads: [[ShipTease Possibly]]. In any case, Michael notes that Francis is both red-haired and handsome.
* HoldingHands: [[spoiler:Michael and Francis at the end]].
* InMediasRes: The book begins with Michael finding the note in his locker, only to explain later how he and Francis became friends.
* InsecureLoveInterest: Michael is a platonic ([[ShipTease or not]]) version of this trope for Francis, constantly feeling insecure about their friendship. This is because Michael has trust issues after being bullied at his previous school, and [[ICantBelieveAGuyLikeYouWouldNoticeMe finds it difficult to accept]] that Francis - who is "cool", "posh" and "handsome" - would genuinely want to be friends with him.
* InTheEndYouAreOnYourOwn: A Mereish saying, apparently. Argent's father used to tell him this.
* KickTheMoralityPet: Michael and Argent are masters of this, followed almost immediately by ItsAllMyFault.
* KidsAreCruel: Both "the comp" that Michael used to go to and St Anselm's have some nasty bullies. There is an offhand reference to a bullying victim at the comp who committed suicide in a stall at the school bathroom.
* LaResistance: Argent was part of the Mereish resistance against the Evgard rule.
* [[LostHimInACardGame Lost Him In A Dice Game]]: The Duke loses Argent to Columen in a game of dice. [[spoiler:Subverted. After Argent confronts him, Columen reveals the die was weighted - he had no intention of really gambling with Argent's life]].
* MadeASlave: Argent. He is caught by the Evgard along with other members of the Mereish resistance, and is [[spoiler:the only one who survives long enough to be a slave]].
* MisfitMobilizationMoment: When Michael and Francis finally get around to [[spoiler:get their revenge against Shipley]].
* MoodWhiplash: One of Francis and Michael's most raw, painful interactions[[note]]It's right after Francis crosses the DespairEventHorizon, and the inciting incident for Michael to do the same[[/note]] is intercut with a flashback to one of the happiest scenes in the whole book, when the two of them visited a castle together.
* OneDialogueTwoConversations: PlayedForDrama. What cements Michael's suspicion that Francis had betrayed their secret is Francis, noticing that he is acting strange, asking "is it because you found out about...?". Michael thinks that Francis is talking about Evgard, and nods. Francis thinks that Michael [[spoiler:found out that he is gay]].
* OnlyFriend: Francis is Michael's. Not the other way round, though; there are mentions of Francis's other friends. They're both a mix of the two types. Michael don't easily make friends (and when he ''does'' form a friendship, [[spoiler:he manages to break it]]), but [[FreudianExcuse that's only because he was bullied at his previous school]]. And while Francis is a NiceGuy and a CoolLoser, he's also a bit of a misfit - possibly because of his friendship with Michael and [[spoiler:his homosexuality]] - and he too sees Evgard as an escape from everything else.
* ParentalObliviousness: Michael's mom, when he tried to tell her about being bullied at the Comp.
* PeerPressureMakesYouEvil: Although it's not that the bullies are trying to make anyone evil, but that fear of them and paranoia induced by them twists everything around.
* RapeAsDrama: What the Duke does to Argent offscreen.
* TheRevolutionWillNotBeVilified: [[spoiler:Followed straight, then subverted magnificently]]. We see how Evgard is pretty awful against the Mereish through the Duke's treatment of the Mereish captives, but [[spoiler:later it's revealed that the Mereish aren't that much better]].
* RolePlayingGameVerse: Evgard.
* SmugSnake: The Duke, Mathon.
* StraightGay: [[spoiler:Francis]], which is why Michael didn't realise that he's gay. It's implied that he was [[ArmouredClosetGay deliberately acting straight]] - when he thinks Michael outed him, he demands to know how he managed to find out.
* ThereAreNoTherapists: Some counselling could certainly have been helpful for Michael, given that he was bullied to a point where he stopped attending school and spent his time staring at the bedroom wall in TroubledFetalPosition for hours. However, it is possible that his mother ''had'' tried to bring him to therapists and he had refused to open up to them.
* TitleDrop: The fictional game "Trecho" is also called the Traitor Game.
* TraumaCongaLine
* YouSaidYouWouldLetThemGo: The Duke promises he'll free the traitors if one of them crosses the Judas Floor without falling. He was lying, of course. Argent succeeds and it [[IHaveYouNowMyPretty doesn't fare well for him]].
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