Priest of Lies by Peter McLean
I said that this was the month that I was going to read The War for the Rose Throne by Peter McLean.
I have to say, this is one of those series that utterly gripped me and I ended up reading until the end. However, for those of you that haven't read it, my review for Priest of Bones is somewhere on Goodreads, so today I am going to review the second book Priest of Lies.
About the Book
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.
Peter McLean’s sprawling crime family drama continues in Priest of Lies.
In Priest of Bones, we are introduced to Tomas Piety as he returns from the war. We follow him as he rebuilds his empire and his criminal gang, The Pious Men. We see the lengths that he will go to, and also the lengths that he is pushed to by outside forces.
However, Priest of Lies changes all that, and make no mistake, because by the time I had finished this book I had no idea where the story was going.
Now when I usually award 5 stars for a book over on the old Goodreads (because I don’t tend to do it on the site as you may have noticed), that particular marker is reserved for those books that blew my tiny mind and let me tell you this book and indeed the whole series has.
For some reason, I thought I had this book pegged out, and I thought it would take a similar route to other crime family dramas that I had read, but did I get that wrong, and it is with Priest of Lies that Peter McLean very cleverly whips that comfortable rug that you stand on form under your feet and laughs as you fall on your arse.
The story starts shortly after the events of The Wheels and what happens after the events of Priest of Bones. We see that things in Ellinsberg are still not under the happy governance of Tomas Piety’s Pious men, and we follow Tomas as continues to solidify power under the tutelage of the Queen’s Men, and in reality is mainly following orders but for his own ends. In addition to that, unexpected events take place in Ellinsberg that change the balance of power, and whilst initially in the story, the contenders for the various other criminal districts have been subdued or swallowed by The Pious Men, the landscape is to change drastically when the rest of the Army is disbanded and the remaining gangs and its leaders return from the war that Toms had gotten out of early in Priest of Bones, and we see old enmities resurface. In addition to this, Tomas is taken to the capitol of Dannesburg with Ailsa, who becomes a prominent figure in this book, and as Tomas continually questions his relationship with her, we actually get to see another side to her.
I think one of the things that you have to understand is that The War for The Rose is first and foremost Tomas’s story, and he speaks with a distinctive voice (and if you listen to the audio version of the book, David Morley Hale’s narration vividly brings that voice to life, so much so that I consider him to be the voice of Tomas Piety). As I have said things change drastically in this book, and those changes become more evident when Tomas goes to Dannesburg and events take place there that will change how the story progresses.
However, enough about that, because I do not want to let loose the spoiler beast and give you any hints of what happens and hope that you discover this story for yourselves.
I cannot express how much I love this book and this series. Just to let you know, I immediately read Priest of Gallows straight after this and am now on the final book that was released earlier this month. That’s how far this series has got its hook into me, I literally cannot put it down, so expect to be seeing my thoughts on those soon. Very soon.
The Priest of Lies is very much touted as Grimdark fantasy, but in all honesty, I have no idea what that exactly is, but what I do know is that Priest of Lies (and in fact the whole series) is so much more. Yes, it is grim, it’s dark, and it’s pretty harsh. It’s shocking and it is most definitely gruesome, but more than that, it is funny, at times there is a tenderness to the book, sometimes it can be philosophical in its ministrations, it is all those things, and if that is the definition of grimdark, then please sir, can I have some more?
With Priest of Lies, Peter McLean expands the world and the characters tenfold. We see not only Tomas develop, but all of the supporting cast too, including Billy the Boy and Ailsa, who gets some rather good character development as we meet her family and learn more about her in general, and it is with her, that we also see that Tomas’s narration is wholly unreliable as there are events in the book that left me with questions and the realisation that not everything in the book is as it seems, and that with Tomas’s sole viewpoint being the lens in which we see this story, there is far more going on in the periphery of his myopic vision of events.
Another thing that I like about Peter McLean’s books is the world building. The writing is very much a proponent of indisctinctly distinct world building. What I mean by that, is yes there are elements that are quite distinct, such as the history, the gods etc etc, which are quite distinct. However, the world around you, the time setting for me are all quite indistinct and I feel that he leaves it up to your imagination to set these things, telling you the things you need to know to orientate you, but place it your own time and place, which is one of my favourite methods of world building. Yes, there are descriptions of clothing like a kirtle or a doublet, which could put you in some kind of historical time period, but for me, I could place it in a middle ages type setting, but it could work equally as well in an Elizabethan or Tudor, or even a Georgian type setting and it all works equally as well, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because the story, not the setting is the main focus.
If you have Priest of Bones and it’s subsequent other books and you have thought to yourself ‘I really need to read those books!’ then do so, I am sure you will enjoy them just as much as I do.