In Red Valley, California, you follow the rules if you want to stay alive. But even that isn’t enough to protect Sadie now that she’s unexpectedly become the Liar: the keeper and maker of Red Valley’s many secrets.
In a town like this, friendships are hard-won and bad blood lasts generations, and when not everyone in town is exactly human, it isn’t a safe place to make enemies.
And though the Liar has power—power to remake the world, with just a little blood—what Sadie really needs is answers: Why is the town’s sheriff after her? What does the King want from her? And what is the real purpose of the Liar of Red Valley?
First, I’d like to thank Hanna and the team at Rebellion for the ARC – this had no bearing on my review.
The Liar of Red Valley is Goodwater’s weird wonderful and more importantly very surreal new novel. I’m a fan of surrealism and the same creeping, skin-crawling feeling I get when I look at a surrealist painting is what I got reading this book. It’s the surface deep normality, and the river, the depth of weirdness below.
It’s the way Goodwater leaves nothing properly defined. The monsters don’t have faces, they only look human. It’s that can’t quite tell what they are or look like that gets me.
It’s the King’s Men, the mirroreyes biting fingers off and wiping their mouths of blood but not seeing it happen. There’s a sense of wonder, a depth to it also, but we’re only on the surface. That’s the really simple, but really hard to pull off feelings at work here. The feeling the story happens atop a pond surface while knowing a lot more must be below the surface. Just not being able to see it.
Plot sees the Liar dead and Sadie who comes into her mother’s, and a long line of women from her family’s largess: the power of the Liar of Red Valley. The power to make lies true with a price of blood and life. Only now, the Laughing Boys, demonic foes, and the undersheriff are all after the liars’ ledgers, secret ledgers where all past lies are written in because the King (a magical being that resides of the Valley) has secrets and lies written in those ledgers that he doesn’t want out. Overall, the plot doesn’t dawdle and it really felt like there was no time getting into the meat of it. I’ve read Goodwater’s other books and this features the same flare for intriguing magic systems and fantastic and exhilarating uses of such to propel the plot; pair this with his fluid writing and you’ve got another story that runs away like a river, filling any gaps and cracks with the straight-talking plot.
While I thought the lore, the magic, the world underneath the surface, were all fully fleshed out, I didn’t buy some of the character relationships. It does seem like Sadie hasn’t known her good friends very long and this really doesn’t play into an integral plot point. But I’m neither sure whether the surface-deep side characters were part and parcel of that or whether it was because it’s a small book and some of the characterisation was dropped in favour of world-building and weird monster POV. Which brings me to the monster POVs: they were awesome and filled in for scenes where perhaps we’d follow other characters. It added a cinematic depth to the plot while also making the entire thing badass. I mean, we get to see through the eyes of ancient beings/beasts and if that’s not cool, I don’t know what is.
The Liar as a magic system really was something cool. The way the lies are written into the book really moves the plot in the way of the fact it could get Sadie out of really sticky situations, but the process of writing in a book, parting with some of your blood, and thinking of an appropriate lie, hinders it from being a cure all. Also, the Liar’s Price stops it from easily wiping out any foe or problem, so while it’s an incredibly strong and original system, it’s also well-balanced and I can always get behind a book with a well-balanced magic system. So bravo, Goodwater, you did a great job there. It’s a fantastic book full of magic creatures, cool magic and fast-paced plot. While I didn’t get behind some of the side characters, that in itself can play into a massive plot twist that I’m sure no one will see coming. However, it is a shorter book than I’d have liked so saves on going too in-depth. I believe it’s a stylistic choice that all of the magic creatures aren’t described because the human eye can’t behold, the human mind can’t decipher, what they are but it sometimes left a blank space in my imagination with it. However, it was a cool way to deal with beings we simply wouldn’t know how to describe and leaves an original twist on what their appearances might be in that everyone reading will see something different.
Overall, it’s a great short read and really appeal to those who love quirky magic, fantasy in an urban setting, and gods and monsters.