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

Rating: 8/10


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.


Priest of Lies continues the bloody taking back of Ellinburg for the Pious Men; Tomas has found his groove, he’s back and he’s under the orders of a Queen’s Man in this no-less-explosive sequel to Priest of Bones. McClean sharpens the blade with each line of prose, each quip, only to plunge it deep at the end and leave the reader reeling in true Piety fashion. If you enjoyed the first, you bet you’ll love the second.

The plot, in short, follows Tomas in a fast-paced, and fast-building gang war with the Pious Men on one side and the Northern Sons on the other; this time the Skanians are very openly picking a side in the hands of the Bloodhands, and as proxy for the Queen, it certainly seems like the start of a larger war.

I do love the small gangland style skirmishes that are littered throughout this book, the clear plotting that leads from one action sequence to the next, and the sheer brutality of it all. With a moment or two in the first half that reaches in and pulls out your heart, it hasn’t lost its grimdark flavour and only continues to push the grimmer side of this. The cunning is a magic without decorum.

Tomas, of course, is why we read the War for the Rose Thrones, it’s why we come back. And it’s his inability to get past the bombings that were done in his name, the second-guessing why he’s doing this and why he’s following Ailsa, the endless questioning of the love and the clear was in which this effects his mentality, that makes it a … I won’t say delight to read because that would be putting it wrong. It’s real though, in all its bloody beats. It’s often that we get a hero who’s unaffected by the many killings they do, the many disastrous scenes they come through only to be completely unscathed. But not in Priest of Lies: Tomas is a character that wears his history as a scar that not only shapes who he is, but also stops him in his tracks, wrestles with his every-day-life and haunts his every waking minute. I thank McLean for not giving us a hero, but for giving us a villain, a real person who knows he might be wrong but strives selfishly to create a world he would like to live in – because that’s what makes him believable.

Overall, this is not one to miss. If you like real characters with real motivations tied up in a novel that knows when and how to pull a good punch, this is one for you.

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