Priest of Lies by Peter McLean

Series: War for the Rose Throne #2 Rating: 5/5
Date of Publishing: July 2nd 2019 Genre: fantasy, grimdark
Publisher: Ace, Quercus Books, Joe Fletcher Books Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Number of pages: 368 Author’s website: https://talonwraith.com/

Quote of the Book

‘Human vivisection is an ugly thing.’
That was putting it lightly, to my mind, but I wondered if it was really so very different to the way that questions were asked in the house of law. Was cutting people open to study what was inside them any worse than putting them to the question? That was a philosophical question, I supposed, and this was no time for philosophy.

Blurb

Tomas Piety has been many things: soldier, priest, gangster...and spy. As Tomas's power grows, the nobility better watch their backs, in this dark and gritty epic fantasy series.

People are weak, and the poorer and more oppressed they are, the weaker they become--until they can't take it anymore. And when  they rise up...may the gods help their oppressors. 

When Tomas Piety returned from the war, he just wanted to rebuild his empire of crime with his gang of Pious Men. But his past as a spy for the Queen's Men drew him back in and brought him more power than he ever imagined. 

Now, with half of his city in ashes and the Queen's Men at his back, the webs of political intrigue stretch out from the capital to pull Tomas in. Dannsburg is calling. 

In Dannsburg the nobility fight with words, not blades, but the results are every bit as bloody. In this pit of beasts, Tomas must decide once and for all whether he is truly the people's champion...or just a priest of lies.

Personal notes

I’ve got an ARC copy through Netgalley. Thanks to Quercus Books/Joe Fletcher Books for it!

 

Song of the Book

For some reason as I’m writing this review, I feel like picking a Disturbed song. So, here we go.

Review

I honestly don’t know what is it about this series that I absolutely adore. I mean, this is as grimdark as it can get – well, okay, maybe not as much, but you know – and most of the characters aren’t exactly nice, or loveable. And still. Here I am, trying to gather my thoughts and coming up with something to criticise. I’m afraid this will be one of those unbalanced reviews where all I do is gushing. I guess I need to have those every once in a while. I’ll keep this review spoiler free, unless you’ve not read Priest of Bones yet. You might get spoiled then.

I think I’ve mentioned in my Priest of Bones review, that at first I found the writing a bit annoying. I didn’t understand why his editor(s) let him get away with this and not drenching manuscript in bloodred ink. I’ve been thinking about this while reading Priest of Lies too, and concluded, that Peter McLean in fact is a genius. The War for the Rose Throne is not the story of McLean, but it’s Tomas’. Since Tomas grew up in a poor family, he didn’t get much education except learning how to read and write. So of course he won’t tell his own story in a highly educated manner. And that’s exactly what makes this series so damn enjoyable. Because we read everything from his POV. He is what he is, you can say a lot of things about him, but one thing’s for sure: he is always true to himself, and his personality shines through the writing too. You can argue about whether Priest of Lies has weaknesses – probably it has – but who cares? For me it’s more important that this series has an awesome cast of characters and they make the whole book come alive. Do I agree with some of the decisions McLean made regarding the plot? Nope. Do I care? Absolutely not. When you can make me root for a guy who’d be a villain in most books, then you can get away with almost anything. But then, you have to be as good as Peter McLean. Good luck with that. I’ve a feeling that with the next book McLean will get his name written up on my favorites list.

Priest of Lies starts about halfway later from the events at the end of Priest of Bones. Despite Ailsa’s wedding gift, things aren’t as peacful in Ellinburg as Tomas would like it. Bloodhands tries to get every opportunity to seize the power, but of course Tomas has a word or two to say about that. And those words usually bring blood in their wake. To make things worse, there is unrest in the Pious Men as well – not everyone is happy about some of the events, and especially the decisions leading to them. There are some seriously jaw dropping twists in this book, and you can be damn sure Tomas doesn’t shy away from hard justice when it comes to it. And it does come to it, rest assured.

I liked the parts set in Dannsburg, as it was completely different from the already familiar Ellinsburg. The city itself, the society, the games the nobles are playing. Tomas, of course is totally out of his element, but that doesn’t make him stop from making some enemies – and some allies. We also get a glimpse into the dephts of the Queen’s Men, though I suspect there is more to that organisation than McLean let it on so far. The chapter with the dinner was just pure brilliance, which made you wish never to cross path with the leader of the Queen’s Men. Also, a dinner which is 6 hours long is a torture in itself,  and this was just the least of poor Tomas’ troubles that night.

Ailsa and Tomas’ relationship is still not all sunshine and happiness, as you can have imagine. For all they are very similar in some aspects, they are also too different to see eye to eye. Tomas might be a ruthless gangster, but he still cares about his people, no matter what. McLean put us through a real roller coaster ride there, as my feelings kept changing as the story progressed and as Tomas’ feelings did. Though, to be fair, she never really grew on me. Still, McLean managed to drive in a punch to the gut with her and I’m still enraged about that – damn, I hate spoiler free reviews in times like this. I want to rant about this so much!! One thing’s for sure, she didn’t play small or left everything to faith. One thing I’m still mad about is how McLean treated Jochan. That was… equally awesome and enraging, and I’m sure I muttered “you bastard” a few times while reading Priest of Lies.

I was kind of right about Billy the Boy, who is still my favorite character. He did get a bigger role to play in the grand scheme of things, and probably he got some of the bloodiest scenes. Poor kid, McLean doesn’t really gives him a moment’s respite. As the book had ended, I’m sure he’ll have some more hard time coming. He forms some interesting friendships and still can be quite creepy. I don’t know how McLean does it, that you just can’t help loving these flawed, broken, far from perfect characters and root for them to finally get a better turn of events in their lives.

“People are weak, as I have written before, and the poorer and more oppressed they are, the weaker they become – until they just refuse to take it any more. Then they will rise up, and the gods help their oppressors.”

Even Priest of Bones didn’t shy away from bloodshed or violence when it came to it, but Priest of Lies turned it up by a notch. The War for the Rose Throne series with this addition really deserves to be mentioned amongst grimdark’s finest. Priest of Lies has an awesome cast of characters, political intrigues, gore and twists that’ll make you blinking in surprise. If you love the genre, then you absolutely must read it!

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