ARC provided by the publisher—Jo Fletcher Books—in exchange for an honest review.
An outstanding grimdark sequel. Feel free to consider me a huge fan of this low-fantasy series now.
At the moment, I honestly don’t know whether I should be happy or sad about the fact that I finished this book already. In less than two weeks, Priest of Lies will officially be published, and I’m truly glad that I have the privilege to read this book earlier than its publication, but oh my lord, I’m in dire need the next book NOW and I’m sad that it’s nowhere in sight yet! Priest of Lies, the second book in the War for the Rose Throne by Peter McLean, is a huge step up from its predecessor; that’s saying a lot because I had a terrific time reading Priest of Bones.
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
—Attributed to Abraham Lincoln
The story in Priest of Lies continues a few months from where Priest of Bones left off. The quote above was stamped in the front page of this novel and it pretty much described the overlying theme of the book and series itself. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that this series has always been about Tomas’s ascension to power and how it gradually changes him. Priest of Lies was simply stunning on every aspect; zero dull moments, bloodier, gorier, intense, and more intimate. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I immensely enjoyed reading every page and I truly wish there were more pages to these series; it only took me five days in total to finish both books available in the series so far. Power corrupts, we’ve seen it happened in reality and fictions across all medium. The necessity and lack of power—whether it’s because of money, physical abilities, or knowledge—will always continue to determine where an individual fits into their respective hierarchy. What do you when you successfully accumulate power from nothing? What do you do when you’re in total control? Many gangster stories have applied these of kind of stories before, but there’s something that’s refreshing in this low-fantasy series that McLean penned; the rich and multi-layered narration in Tomas’s first-person perspective.
I can’t emphasize highly enough how much I loved reading Tomas’s distinctive narration; his voice really gets under my skin. Tomas isn’t a wordy character, he’s very efficient with his words but every action he did have weight beneath the surface. It was entertaining and refreshing to read; I found myself completely captivated. In the first book, I wasn’t 100% sure about Tomas being an anti-hero but there’s no shred of doubt that he belongs to be called one. It’s unfortunate that I can’t go into detail about this without going into spoiler territory, let’s just say some of Tomas’s actions made me feel conflicted—in a good way—about him and it seems like the fraction of me that was able to root for him was because I’m a spectator to his story; I doubt I could support some of his decisions as a leader if I were to serve beneath him. I loved reading the character development that McLean breathe into Tomas, this conflicted feeling about a character is an element I expected and loved out of grimdark and on this regard, McLean successfully delivered.
“You didn’t hit women, not unless they were armed and they were trying to kill you. You didn’t hit whores, and you most definitely didn’t hit your own fucking wife. Anyone who needed that explained to him wasn’t someone I knew how to talk to in a civil fashion. Vengeance is mine, sayeth Our Lady, and I am Her priest.”
But that’s me speaking exclusively about Tomas. This book and series aren’t merely about him but how the changes in his role and dominance affected his surroundings. Honestly speaking, Tomas has always been a great character since the first book, and although I’m genuinely satisfied by how much Tomas developed as a character, what made me even amazed was how well-written and well-fleshed out the side characters were. Although I had a fantastic time reading Priest of Bones, there seemed to be only three characters—Tomas himself, Bloody Anne, and Billy the Boy—that received my utmost interest. McLean did a spectacular job in Priest of Lies by making sure that the other side characters have more spotlights; I found this to be awesome because Tomas was the sole narrator of the story and yet I can’t help but feel like I have come to understand each character’s personality through his narration; seeing the camaraderie of the Pious Men tested were emotionally gripping.
“Each of us here, man or woman, is a Pious man. That’s a bond between us, a bond either of blood or of trust and comradeship forged in the fires of war. That’s not a thing to be taken lightly. We’re family, and we’re comrades, and we stand by each other until the very last breath. That’s what it means, to be a Pious an. That’s how this fucking works. Does anyone disagree on that?”
Before I close my review, I also would like to say I’m seriously impressed by how well written were the effects of the battle-shocks that the characters have. None of the characters are ‘okay’, that has been displayed throughout the series so far. They may have won the previous war before returning to Ellinburg but the experience and horrors of war they’ve accumulated has taken a toll on them, and it’s even more evident here. I personally think that this helps a lot in invoking feelings towards every single character and why they acted the way they did. The action scenes were spread economically throughout the book; all of them felt incredibly cinematic and vivid. The decimation of men in the name of order, power, and harsh justice was brutal. However, no bloody/gory scene ever felt done merely for shock value. For example, The Rite of the Betrayer scene was bloody as fuck but beneath the crimson scene, the deadly and dangerous implication behind the Rite was also exposed to the readers.
“Everyone has a lever that moves them, and everyone has their weakness too. If you can’t find the lever to move someone, then you find the weakness, and you take hold of it, and you squeeze until they break.”
Exhilirating, continuously riveting, and magnificent; it’s very easy for me to shout to the world that Priest of Lies is one of the most engrossing grimdark books I’ve read up to date. I need more out of this series and I need it as soon as possible. Considering that my rating for the series so far matched what I rated the first two books in The First Law trilogy and Manifest Delusions by Michael R. Fletcher, War for the Rose Throne has a promising potential to become one of my favorite grimdark trilogies of all time.
Official release date: July 2nd, 2019
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.