Hello, everyone! This evening I have another review as part of TheWriteReads blog tour for The Knave of Secrets by Alex Livingston. That’s right! Two blog tours in two days. I’m not gonna lie… I’ve been scrambling to get both of these done on time, but it has been a lot of fun, as well. Thank you to Rebellion Publishing and TheWriteReads for allowing me to participate! Now on to the book!
Book Info & Links
A twisty tale of magicians, con artists and card games, where secrets are traded and gambled like coin, for fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Mask of Mirrors.
Never stake more than you can afford to lose.
When failed magician turned cardsharp Valen Quinol is given the chance to play in the Forbearance Game—the invitation-only tournament where players gamble with secrets—he can’t resist. Or refuse, for that matter, according to the petty gangster sponsoring his seat at the table. Valen beats the man he was sent to play, and wins the most valuable secret ever staked in the history of the tournament.
Now Valen and his motley crew are being hunted by thieves, gangsters, spies and wizards, all with their own reasons for wanting what’s in that envelope. It’s a game of nations where Valen doesn’t know all the rules or who all the players are, and can’t see all the moves. But he does know if the secret falls into the wrong hands, it could plunge the whole world into war…
***Thank you to TheWriteReads and Rebellion Publishing for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
This was a fun read. There was tons of political intrigue, interesting magic, and intricate world-building. The writing was good, and the narrative style did a great job of setting up the tone of the world. The plot was a bit slow at times, especially in the second quarter of the book, but the excitement of the games and mysteries kept me engaged for most of it.
The world and magic system were probably my favorite things about this book. The political situation was tense, and the history of each nation was fascinating to learn about. The Seminaire brotherhood of magicians was an interesting concept, and I wish even more time had been spent on learning about their order and the magic, and secrets, they held. There was also a wealth of information about the different games of chance played by the people in this world, which I’m sure some people will appreciate. Personally, I wish more time had been spent on the magic and less on the different games. Furthermore, I enjoyed the political intrigue but found it to be quite confusing for the first half of the book because I kept losing track of whose side certain characters were on. Once some of the secrets came out, it all made more sense, but the author’s attempts at showing the different political ties in the first half without any type of primer on the world’s history/alliances really fell flat. All in all, though, the world was fascinating, and I think it has a lot of untapped potential for future stories (if the author decides to make this more than a standalone).
I liked many of the characters, but they all felt a bit two-dimensional. Valen was probably the most well-rounded, and I liked his personality. I enjoyed seeing him become an unlikely hero, and his struggle with guilt about the consequences of his gambling and cheating was probably the most compelling character arc. I also really liked getting a middle-aged protagonist, and the relationship he had with his wife was something I loved reading. They were just so supportive of each other and worked great together while attempting to build their dreams into reality. Many of the other POVs really could have been eliminated. The stories of the two ambassadors felt like filler and a way to impart knowledge about the current political situation. However, as I noted above, they only served to make me more confused, and Ria’s perspective and motivations honestly felt a bit inconsistent. In general, the characters were fun to read, though, and many of them had plenty of great moments. They just all felt a bit wooden.
Overall, this was an enjoyable read filled with interesting magic, espionage, and lots of secrets. The ideas were good even if the execution of all aspects of the story weren’t as great as I’d hoped. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.
About the Author
Alex Livingston grew up in various quiet New England towns before moving to Buffalo, NY to study English at Canisius College. He writes SFF prose and interactive fiction. Alex is married and lives in an old house with his brilliant wife and a pile of aged videogame systems.