- Priest of Lies (War for the Rose Throne #2).
- Peter McLean.
- 400 pages.
- Fantasy / Low Fantasy / Grimdark.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
When Tomas Piety and his Pious Men returned from the war, he just wanted to rebuild his crime empire and look after his people. But the sinister Queen’s Men had different ideas and whether he likes it or not, he’s now a spy as well.
Now, half the city of Ellinburg lies in ashes and the webs of political intrigue are stretching out from the Queen’s 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.
And as Tomas’ power grows, the nobility had better watch their backs . . .
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Priest of Bones saw Tomas Piety returning to Ellinburg after three years away fighting in a war for Queen and country that has now ended. Upon his return, Tomas re-established The Pious Men who, before the war conscripted everyone of age and took them away had been one of the gangs that ruled the Ellinburg underworld. Tomas and the now, newly reformed Pious Men (made up of Ellinburg natives and original Pious Men like Tomas and his brother, Jochan and veterans who were part of his regiment in the war and who chose to follow him back to Ellinburg and the chance of a new life) subsequently took back their businesses, their streets and reclaimed their territory from the foreign invaders who had stolen into Ellinburg during the war.
Priest of Lies takes place six months after the explosive ending to Priest of Bones. Tomas and his Pious Men have consolidated their power, expanded their various criminal enterprises and now hold all of Eastern Ellinburg, not just the Stink but now the Wheels and the Docks too after taking them over from rival gang bosses. This is a larger territory for Tomas and he is now one of the most powerful men in Ellinburg. The Western side of Ellinburg, however, is now ruled over by the Northern Sons, a rival gang with foreign backers. Those outsiders are grasping, reaching out from the shadows and trying to take control of the city and looking to start another war.
The stakes are bigger, raised higher in Priest of Lies as Tomas becomes further embroiled in the affairs of the crown while on the streets of Ellinburg things get messy as the turf war between the Pious Men and the Northern Sons rages on. In the words of Tomas “my streets, my law, my justice”.
Unlike Priest of Bones which was solely set in Ellinburg. Priest of Lies sees Tomas (along with a few others) spread his wings from the decay, filth, shit and squalor of the Stink and travel to the gilded finery and clean living of Dannsburg, the capital and the seat of the Rose Throne.
The change of setting takes place for the middle of the book and works well to expand the story. The new city opens up the world but it is also a double-edged sword. While Tomas finds himself walking the streets of Dannsburg he leaves behind most of the Pious Men back in Ellinburg and you do, on occasion find yourself missing them and wondering what they are getting up to. It’s a minor thing though, born more of my love for certain characters who didn’t accompany him and my longing for them than any other reason.
The part of the story that takes place in Dannsburg is fascinating. It is a slight change of pace to what we are used to on the streets of Ellinburg with far less fighting and a larger focus on conspiracies and politics. Not only do we learn more about the Queen’s Men but also about the machinations at play. In Dannsburg and away from his crew, we see Tomas thrust deeper into the swirling maelstrom of intrigue as he attempts to navigate the pitfalls of nobility. He is cast on the tides, on the murky and treacherous waters of high society where he watches and learns the game of manipulation. The deft way of words, how they have power and how the wrong words, words spoken to the wrong person can have consequences. In court, words are weapons taking the place of daggers and swords and they can be just as deadly.
While Tomas is in Dannsburg the turf war between the Pious Men and the Northern Sons has been raging back in Ellinburg. By the time Tomas returns to his own streets the tensions are boiling over and things have drastically deteriorated making the city a ticking time bomb that is ready to go off at the smallest spark. Tomas’s return to Ellinburg leads to the breathless final part of the book where the events that have been building really start to come to a head.
As the leader of the Pious Men, Tomas demands respect. He is loyal to those who are loyal to him but don’t cross or disrespect him otherwise he will deliver harsh justice. If you treat him with that respect, if you are loyal to him and if you pay your protection money on time then he will look after you and your business. He doesn’t just take the money, he does right by his people and he looks after them. He is their prince and they are his people.
Tomas is world-weary and wise. He has seen a lot, lived through a lot and risen up from being a nobody, from nothing to become someone of authority, of status and, in the leader of the Pious Men someone to be respected. Seen through his eyes and told through his words no matter what is going on in Priest of Lies Tomas is the heart and the soul as his narrative drives the story forward. He has a very individual and unique voice that comes to life through the writing of McLean (which is exceptional throughout). He is built from spit and sawdust rather than perfume, polish and powder. He is sometimes blunt, direct and forthright but, he can also be poetic, deep and profound with a biting black humour and whip crack retorts. There is a depth to him, a strength of character and we see him grow and learn more about himself. He is a tremendous character but he isn’t the only character to develop and along with Tomas, his brother, Jochan, Bloody Anne, his second in the Pious Men, Billy the Boy, Cutter, Fat Luka and Ailsa all have roles to play in the story and all develop too. There are many other characters too, some old, some new and those that I have just mentioned are, for me the standout with Bloody Anne, Billy the Boy and Jochan my own personal favourites. Regardless of whether they are main characters or peripheral, they feel real and the relationships between many of them are complicated.
McLean has created a hard world that is populated by hard men. A world of broken glass and rusted barbwire, a world that can cut you, that can scar you. The Pious Men who fought in the war are mostly, to a degree all damaged, all traumatised by what they did and what they saw, the violence that they witnessed and the battles that they were part of. Tomas is prone to bouts of and Jochan suffers badly, is broken from battle shock and it has an impact on many of them. The war changed those who fought in it, left them all with scars, some of the body, some that can be seen and some of the mind, some that can’t be seen and have never healed. The trauma, the shock, the memories, they are always there. Hidden and buried but biding their time. Waiting behind the eyes to pull you back into the war, reliving the horrors of Abingon and Messia, the horrors that they lived through.
Priest of Lies expertly mixes together organised crime and gritty gangland drama set in a fantasy world with a dash of magic. The narrative is compelling and told by a distinctive voice, the chapters are short, snappy and keep you coming back for more, the action, bloody, brutal and visceral, the setting vivid and the story with its betrayal, revelations and twists appealing and darkly entertaining…I bloody loved it!
Priest of Bones was fantastic, Priest of Lies is better. It is utterly brilliant, over far too soon, another dose of top-quality gangtasy (gangsters and fantasy) and features an ending that left me longing for, yearning for the next book. I mean, it is the perfect mix of gangsters and fantasy, what’s not to love?!?
Purchase Priest of Lies (War for the Rose Throne #2).
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