Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing The Prince of Magic and Lies by Elizabeth S. Trafalgar. It has been forever since I’ve reviewed a book from BookSirens, and even though I have some mixed feelings about this one, I’m glad I picked it up.
Prince Lyrian was never going to rule.
Not only is he the second son, he has a secret—he can manipulate anyone’s will as he pleases. But having any magic at all is considered a sin in Carith and is punishable by death. The only one he trusts to confide his secret in is his lover, Lord Vail Casart. It’s a necessary trust, since every use of Lyrian’s magic leaves permanent marks on his flesh.
But when the king suddenly announces that he is considering naming Lyrian as heir instead, he panics. After all, he can’t be king—not without his magic being discovered and being forced to set aside the man he loves for a political marriage. Lyrian decides that if the king thinks that his older brother is too weak and naive to rule, then he must take matters into his own hands.
For the first time, Lyrian embraces his hidden magic, manipulating his brother into the brutal ruler the kingdom needs. But brutality is against his brother’s nature, and such behavior doesn’t go unnoticed. And when a royal refugee from a neighboring kingdom discovers Lyrian’s secret, everything he’s meticulously hidden threatens to be uncovered. Before his secrets are revealed—and his love and life ripped apart—Lyrian must find a way to seize the power that he’s spent his entire life fighting to hide, or risk losing everything.
In a heart-wrenching new series perfect for fans of C.S. Pacat and Ben Alderson, Prince Lyrian Talis must reckon with his forbidden powers without losing his love…or his life.
***Thank you to BookSirens for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
I have mixed feelings about this book. There were many things I really liked, but it felt like an absolute chore getting through the first half. I was sucked in almost instantly by the writing and characterization of the main character. However, that immersion quickly eroded because it felt like the character and plot were stagnant for too long. The presentation of the character’s fear of being found out quickly became repetitive, and the plot didn’t progress much until the halfway point of the book. Then things moved super quickly, almost too quickly at times. I would have loved to spend more time with the battles and other important things happening towards the end of the book, but it seemed like they were over in the blink of an eye. The plot twists and rapid pace did have me hooked, though, because I read the second half of the book in one sitting. Whereas, it took me an entire week to even want to get through the first half.
The world-building was a bit hit or miss, as well. The magic system was really interesting, and I enjoyed getting to learn more about the mind control powers alongside Lyrian as he grew to accept his magic and develop his abilities. The rest of the world-building was seriously lacking, though. The backdrop was bare bones, and I really wanted more info on what set these two kingdoms at odds. Maybe that will come in later books, but it just felt really underdeveloped. It left things feeling like they were a certain way only because the plot required them to be rather than seeming like a living and breathing world. I also found some of the scenarios to really stretch the limit of common sense. For example, it would have been super unlikely that no one would have seriously questioned Lyrian’s odd behavior and fashion sense much earlier given how zealous everyone seemed to be about rooting out magic users.
I loved the characterization of Lyrian. He was a complex character that ended up being someone I hated feeling sorry for. He was in a horrible situation of having to hide his true nature from everyone he loved. The awfulness of the religious fanaticism really hit home and made me feel uncomfortable. It reminded me of the horrible, dehumanizing things I used to hear about gay people from members of my church when I was growing up. So, initially I really identified with Lyrian and his struggle to keep his magic a secret for fear of his own safety. Then he began doing really horrible things, including to other people like him, in order to protect himself. Many, including myself, would argue they were probably justified to some extent given the immediate threat to his own life, but it still made the character harder to root for even though he was making impossible choices. I also couldn’t help shaking the feeling that the better choice from the very beginning of the story would have just been to run away to a kingdom that accepted magic users. It’s not like he didn’t have the resources to do it. As things cascaded, it eventually just began to seem like it was selfishness, rather than self-preservation, that kept spurring him to make horrible choices, especially as he grew to accept himself and his power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Lyrian was definitely an interesting case study of that premise at times.
I enjoyed the rest of the characters, as well, but they all felt a bit like one-dimensional cardboard cutouts for most, if not all, of the book. The only exception was probably Thea, who had a similar story and trajectory to Lyrian. The relationship between Vail and Lyrian was sweet and very endearing, and Vail himself was also very sweet and noble. I wish there would have been even more of them just being a cute couple because those moments really helped to lighten up a lot of the darker aspects of the book. In general, the LGBT+ rep was really great amongst all the characters, and I liked that this world accepted those differences while using the prosecution of magic to explore themes related to queer trauma. It was an interesting juxtaposition to read.
Overall, this was a good start to a fantasy series with great queer rep and the exploration of pretty powerful themes. It has great potential despite the pacing, world-building, and secondary characters being a bit shaky. The complex characterization of Lyrian really stood out as the best thing about the book to me, along with the general exploration of the dangers associated with fanaticism. I’m definitely intrigued enough to give the sequel a shot when it comes out. Therefore, I rate this book 3 out of 5 stars.