Gangster, soldier, priest. Queen’s Man. Governor.
Tomas Piety has everything he ever wanted. In public he’s a wealthy, highly respected businessman, happily married to a beautiful woman and Governor of his home city of Ellinburg. In private, he’s no longer a gang lord but one of the Queen’s Men, invisible and officially non-existent, working in secret to protect his country.
But when the queen’s sudden death sees him summoned him back to the capital, he discovers his boss, Dieter Vogel, Provost Marshal of the Queen’s Men, is busy tightening his stranglehold on the country.
Just as he once fought for his Pious Men, he must now bend all his wit and hard-won wisdom to protect his queen – but now he can’t always tell if he’s on the right side.
Tomas has started to ask himself, what is the price of power? And more importantly, is it one he is willing to pay?
First, I’d like to thank Ella Patel and Jo Fletcher Books for the ARC that in no way affected my review.
Tomas Piety won’t sit down for no one, not now he’s got the Queen’s Warrant. He’s near unstoppable in the third and penultimate book in the War for the Rose Throne. Priest of Gallows is so utterly unrelenting and blunt in its message it’ll leave you gasping – heart-thumping – trying to keep above the sheer horror within its pages; it’s so very brutal, so very sharp-of-wit and so unforgiving. McLean ramps up everything you’d have loved from the first two and plunges us into unfamiliar territory with familiar faces.
Without wanting to spoil anything, the plot in short sees Tomas deeply embroiled in a situation that really has gone awry, a situation so out of the norm that he’s forced to Dannsburg at the command of Dieter Vogel to try help smooth over the disaster … and disaster it is. Meanwhile, he cements his position in the secret elite. I mean, I know what I’ve said here really does skate around the plot, but so much happens so quickly that I feel like you need to go into this one fresh. As ever, I have to say it’s not for the feint-hearted; there’s scenes early on that really are unsettling … Ilse, a new face, is certainly someone you get the crash course into knowing. Brutal isn’t the word. Then there’s the twists and turns, which I also really can’t mention, but damned does it get flashy; if you’d not had your fill of the cunning, this will certainly satiate that need and then some. I’m a sucker for magic, so to see it front and centre in this book was amazing.
The setting in this one is different; if the first two were gangland warfare, this one is a definite change of pace. It’s Tomas with real power and real authority and in part I did miss the skirmishes back in Ellinburg, the violence without a writ. But it’s a definite upwards turn in Tomas’ character arc: we have seen him go from battle-weary arrival to Dannsburg elite. A man not to be messed with. But no matter how high he climbs, there’s plenty of scum to teach a lesson and plenty of them are the disgusting and wretched upper classes who think money can buy them a free pass into their brutal pastimes … and it has done, but not now Tomas is the man with the swords. But they’re not named justice, although he’s happy to give you some. Even so, McLean grounds him in his battle shock and roots. He’s not really one of those up top, and he’ll also only take so much. Still, it’s all personal for Tomas and he won’t really make a move other than to save his own name, and to right something he feels is wrong, or has wronged him. I love the way we’re almost led to believe he might be a hero, but that’s really a matter of perspective. He’s a villain to those above, and a villain to those who cross him. His heart isn’t always in the right place, but he’ll ensure his own are looked after and that’s something you’ve got to love about his character.
A special mention goes to Iagin – I bloody love that man. And the ride his and Tomas’ relationship has taken. From almost-enemies, or certainly individuals would never be called acquaintances, to fast friends. Iagin is an ally well-earnt and crucially needed amongst the political intrigue and plotting that goes on in Dannsburg. His taut, blunt words and fast action led me to laugh and wince.
The cunning blew me away … and it’s one of those clever magic systems which just tells you nothing about how it works but in Priest of Gallows it attempts to give us insight, to add to the little we know about it through the eyes of Billy.
Overall, this is the best entry into the series yet and I couldn’t put it down. It’s everything you need in a low-fantasy read.