ARC provided by the publisher—Saga Press—in exchange for an honest review.
The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Legacy of the Mercenary King (Book #1 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Mystery
Pages: 608 pages (US hardcover edition)
Published: 7th May 2020 by Gollancz (UK) & 5th May 2020 by Saga Press (US)
The Kingdom of Liars is a solid debut that’s quite challenging to get through at first, but the second half offers rewarding experience to those who read the novel to its completion.
Similar to many cases with debuts by an unknown author in the past, my interest to read The Kingdom of Liars, the first book in The Legacy of The Mercenary Kings series by Nick Martell, was sparked due to the gorgeous cover art by Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme (US edition) and Richard Anderson (UK edition). Additionally, both Brandon Sanderson and James Islington—two authors whose works I immensely loved—gave high praise to this debut. How could I even resist reading this book!?
“It’s the long con that wins in the end, Michael. The people who do things worth remembering are the ones willing to wait decades to achieve it.”
The story in The Kingdom of Liars begins with the main character, Michael Kingman, being held on a trial for the death of a king. The story in this novel follows Michael narrating his journey that leads to his current predicament. If you want to find out more regarding the premise, read the official synopsis. The Kingdom of Liars is a book that’s filled with politics and mysteries; Martell did a great job in blending all of these elements to tell a story with themes of legacy, family, loyalty, power, responsibilities, and memories at its core.
“But the problem is, the older you become, the more you discover that memories change on their own. Some fade away, some stories change slightly, and some memories are so drastically different a decade after they occurred that no one can be quite sure what the truth is.”
I would recommend this book to many fantasy readers that love reading elements of mystery and many traversals of politics in their reads. I do, however, can only recommend this book safely by giving a warning, and that is this book needed some patience to go through. Why? Here’s the thing, the main character, Michael, throughout the entire first half of the novel was utterly irritating and infuriating. He’s naïve, cocky, selfish, and he repeatedly made stupid decisions. Plus, this is a book told solely through his POV in first-person narration; there’s no other character’s perspective to give the reader a break from his narrative, and that can get very testing at times. I won’t lie, there were several moments in the first half of the book where I almost gave up, and I imagine several readers would. If you have enough patience, know that his behavior felt deliberately done; heck one of the side characters even mentioned it to him blatantly right on his face. But is it worth continuing? Yes, I’ll say so. The second half displayed magnificent storytelling strength with a barrage of revelations that gave valid reasons why Michael behaved the way he did; I grew to feel empathetic towards him. Michael is a super flawed character, and it helped strengthen the narrative. I read through the entirety of the second half within a single day; I was captivated by the revelations, character development, and the way everything clicked together.
“One day you’ll understand there is more to life than the Kingman legacy. It’ll probably take a woman and a child to teach you that, but one day you’ll understand.”
World-building wise, I feel like Martell has only just begun. There are still many aspects of the world and history that’s still unexplained. Same as Michael, we readers know nothing about what’s going on outside the main city where the story takes place. I loved reading how the overuse of Fabrications—the magic system of this series—has the capability to cause its user a memory loss. Fabrications come in many forms, mostly based on elemental magic such as fire fabrications, lightning fabrications, metal fabrications, and darkness fabrications. Again, same as the world-building, there’s still a lot of potential in the sequel for the magic system to enhanced the overall strength of the series itself extensively, but for now, what I’ve read in the first installment was enough to keep me satisfied. In the end, the main feature in The Kingdom of Liars for me was the mysteries and how Martell was able to unravel them satisfyingly with an engaging and very compelling writing style. Even when I found the main character to be intolerable, or when the story was moving a bit too slow, I was able to push through because the dialogues and the writing were gripping.
“We love despite a person’s flaws, no their lack thereof.”
The Kingdom of Liars is an enthralling debut that melded intriguing mysteries, shocking revelations, costly magic, and deeply strong familial theme into its narrative. The first half of the book may require some patience to get through, but the second half made the journey rewarding. It even shed a better light on the parts that didn’t work for me at first. There’s no cliffhanger ending here; the book would’ve worked well as a standalone should the author decided to go on a different path. I look forward to the next book in the series.
Official release date: 7th May 2020 (UK) and 5th May 2020 (US)
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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