Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing The Tyranny of Faith by Richard Swan, a sequel I’ve been looking forward to for a year. I loved the first book in this trilogy, The Justice of Kings, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on this follow-up. Luckily, I was able to snag an advanced copy of the audiobook. 🙂 The Tyranny of Faith is out everywhere tomorrow, February 14, 2023!
From a major new debut author in epic fantasy comes the second book in a trilogy where action, intrigue, and magic collide. Sir Konrad Vonvalt, an Emperor’s Justice, who is a detective, judge, and executioner all in one.
A Justice’s work is never done.
The Battle of Galen’s Vale is over, but the war for the Empire’s future has just begun. Concerned by rumors that the Magistratum’s authority is waning, Sir Konrad Vonvalt returns to Sova to find the capital city gripped by intrigue and whispers of rebellion. In the Senate, patricians speak openly against the Emperor, while fanatics preach holy vengeance on the streets.
Yet facing down these threats to the throne will have to wait, for the Emperor’s grandson has been kidnapped – and Vonvalt is charged with rescuing the missing prince. His quest will lead him – and his allies Helena, Bressinger and Sir Radomir – to the southern frontier, where they will once again face the puritanical fury of Bartholomew Claver and his templar knights – and a dark power far more terrifying than they could have imagined.
***Thank you to Hachette Audio for providing an advanced copy of the audiobook. My review contains my honest thoughts about my listening experience.***
My opinion on this book is a bit weird. While I enjoyed the story a lot, I don’t think it was quite as good as the first because the plot fell into the middle book trap. The entire thing felt like filler despite being a compelling and enjoyable read. The writing was fantastic, though, with beautiful and immersive prose that sucked me right back into this dark world of magic, conspiracy, and brutal action. The pace was a bit uneven. The first half was very slow and focused largely on world-building and character development. The middle did drag a bit, and then the ending was absolutely explosive.
This is where my opinion might diverge from many others. I LOVED the slowest parts of the book at its start the most. The world-building was top notch, and I was completely absorbed by experiencing the ins and outs of life in the capital with the characters. The political conspiracies, the whiny emperor, and Vonvalt’s investigations into corruption had me hooked. Swan captured the feeling of existential dread perfectly by placing the characters right in the middle of the turmoil. You could feel the empire ripping itself apart around them as they desperately tried to keep things afloat against all odds. It was horrifyingly reminiscent of what it feels like to watch the news. lol.
Then the Emperor’s grandson gets kidnapped. I enjoyed the investigation at first, but eventually it felt a bit pointless as it dragged on and on. Then the characters run off before the investigation is complete to confront Claver. This led to some mind-blowing action scenes and a heart-wrenching development that left me teary-eyed. I also really loved the additional information about the magic and necromancy. However, it led to the plot jumping around a little too much for me. I liked each individual thread, but it seemed like making it all feel cohesive as the story progressed was a struggle. All of it came together in the end, though, and I was surprised by some of the ways everything connected. Unfortunately, all the answers felt a bit cheap because the characters didn’t solve the mysteries. The answers just happened to them rather quickly at the end, and it left me feeling a little cheated after all the time I spent investigating with the characters.
The characters continued to be fantastic. This story provided more background on Bressinger and Vonvalt, which I loved. I also really enjoyed the tension between the increasingly pragmatic Vonvalt and Helena’s idealism. However, I could have done without the forced romance element. The relationship between Vonvalt and Helena has never felt romantic to me in the slightest, and I think it would have made more sense to keep it a mentor/student vibe.
One of the major draws of this series for me is the themes it explores. This book doubled down on its exploration of what justice means and whether the law always serves it. It also raised the question of whether the ends can justify the means when the means are just as bad as those used by the enemy. The dangers of populism and of allowing demagogues too much power were illustrated brilliantly, and the costs and benefits of imperialism were weighed and judged. The changes in Helena’s views regarding the empire were fascinating to read, and the conclusions she reached about the usefulness of the empire by the end were compelling.
Finally, the audiobook narration was superb. The narrator’s voice was the perfect mixture of gritty and regal, which brought Helena to life in a stunning way. She also did a wonderful job of giving each character a distinct voice matching their personality. Her narration added so much to the story and no doubt helped create the immersive experience I enjoyed so much. All in all, this was a great read. Not quite as great as the first book, in my opinion, but there was a lot here to love. Therefore, I rate this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.