Review: Priest of Lies (War for the Rose Throne #2) by Peter McLean

Rating: ★★★★☆+

Synopsis

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.

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of Priest of Lies (War for the Rose Throne #2) in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this ARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel.

A stunning sequel to one of my favorite books of 2018, McLean delivers exactly what I have been waiting for a year on and then some. Part Mark Lawrence’s Road Brothers, part Godfather, part Peaky Blinders, maybe a stab of Joe Abercrombie, Priest of Lies continues the push of the Low Fantasy bar up to new heights and it’s about damn time people started paying attention.

Having been introduced to Thomas Piety and his Pious Men already in Book 1 (which was less than a year ago for those who complain about having to wait on sequels…), settling back into the swing of things with PoL is like getting back with your old mates from high school: comfortability, lack of timidity, and with the knowledge that you are about to get in the middle of some sh*t. We’ve all been there.

While Book 1 was focused on the return from war and reclamation of Piety’s empire, Book 2 expands the vision into retaining and expanding, but also exploring new territory. The world-building that felt so claustrophobic now allows for room to breath and gives us a glimpse outside of The Stink; a view at how the other half lives. Though more politically steered than fighty-fighty, stabby-stabby, there is still plenty of blood, guts, and brandy to go round. On top of that, we continue to grow accustomed to some of the secondary characters like Bloody Anne and Billy the Boy, though maybe not as much as we would like seeing as Piety ventures off with his wife for an extended time.

McLean writes with a very unique voice, and while that isn’t the only thing he does well, it is a very important one. It stands out amongst the crowd and is a piece to the puzzle I always look for in a novel or series. On top of that, he writes every scene like the next moment could be a battle, a war, or an explosion. You are just waiting for the powder to ignite, creating chaos for the motley crew and ever increasing the avenues with which the novel can traverse.

All in all, Priest of Lies is bloody-brilliant and does a fantastic turning the series up a notch. If you enjoyed Book 1, you probably already have a copy; but if you haven’t given these books a shot yet and you are a fan or low, or even grimdark, fantasy, I suggest you correct your course. You won’t regret it.

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