Priest of Lies (War for the Rose Throne #2) by Peter McLean #PriestOfLies

Today I’m really pleased to be taking part in the blog blast organised by Jo Fletcher Books which coincides with the release of Priest of Lies.  The second book in a series that I highly recommend.  See details about the other blogs taking part in the banner below and give them a visit if you have the chance.

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Before I start this review I would just give a warning that it might contain spoilers for the first in series, Priest of Bones (my review is here).

I am loving this series.  It’s everything good that I hope for when I pick up a book.  The storyline has clearly been well plotted.  The strong foundations established in the first book are really well utilised and built upon here.  The characters are really coming to life and I find myself absolutely fascinated about what will come next.  On top of that we get to explore more of this world and that, coupled with wonderful pacing, made this a totally gripping read.

Once again the Prince of the People, Tomas Piety, priest, soldier, gangster, liar?, narrates his tale.  Piety has a very compelling way of telling his story.  He’s not a charmer precisely but he has enough self confidence to allow him to be refreshingly frank and this openness makes him a flawed but much more likable, or understandable character.  He certainly manages to get himself in a fix but it all feels really plausible – like his hands are tied and his choices limited.

Tomas has rebuilt his empire, he’s doing well, in fact if the measure of a man was judged by the weight of gold in their coffers then Tomas could be standing ten feet tall.  Of course, there is a but.  His marriage is a sham.  A cover for the intrigue carried out by Tomas’s wife, Ailsa, in the name of the Queen’s Men and in fact Tomas finds it difficult himself to forgive his wife for the carnage wrought by her plotting at the end of the first book. On top of this the scheming continues.  Tomas has achieved his goals, he’s won back his turf, and so the Pious Men can’t help but wonder why they’re trying to expand into other territory when this involves increased risk to the remaining gang members.  Basically, the Queen’s Men – in the form of Tomas’s wife are not yet finished.  War is looming and the only way to keep the fighting and carnage at bay is to stop the infiltration of the enemy at the door and this time around that involves a detour to the capital.

I thoroughly enjoyed this little jaunt.  It added an extra layer.  In Dannsburg Tomas is very much out of his depth.  His reputation doesn’t extend this far and he finds himself, instead of a big fish in a little pond he’s a little fish in a big pond where political sharks are circling and getting ready for the kill.  This was such a great change of tack.  The capital is very different to Ellinburg and the nobles’ disdain and casual indifference towards Tomas, his provincial accent and the small threat he poses to them is like a wake up call.  Tomas finds himself very much in need of Ailsa’s calm head and careful counsel although he does occasionally resort to brute force.  Even so, Tomas has to be careful, just like everyone else in the capital.  Speak out too loudly and you will simply disappear overnight.  The trip certainly gives Tomas a new found respect for his wife.

In terms of the characters the author really takes the opportunity to beef them up.  Of course, some characters have more page time than others – particularly once Tomas leaves Ellinburg for the capital but, even with the change in place I still felt like I had the opportunity to know everyone a little better.  I can’t deny that my favourites are Billy the Boy and Bloody Anne and I confess that the attachment I feel towards them is a little worrying – you just never know these days whether your favourite characters will survive or do something hideously treacherous and turn everything on its head .

The world building.  I get a great sense of place with this series.  I think when I reviewed Priest of Bones I mentioned that the place feels almost Dickensian.  The twisty streets, dark alleys and abject poverty of The Stink sharply contrasting with the wealth and opulence of the nobles, especially in Dannsburg.  Small surprise that some of the action has a French Revolution type feel when the poorest members of society finally snap.  I love the easy way that the place simply springs into the mind’s eye.

Overall I had a really good time with this in fact I think it exceeded my expectations by surpassing the first.  It still has that raw brutality and doesn’t shy away from bad language and violence but it is by no means as dark as some of the grimdark books I’ve read.

Incredibly entertaining, a great narrative voice and an ending that makes me anxious to pick up the next book in series.   This is a tale of an ambitious character, a slightly jaded world weary guy who’s successes only help to push him in a direction that doesn’t seem to make him happy.  The more wealth, power and respect that Tomas achieves the further away it pushes him from those he really cares about.  Be careful what you wish for I suppose.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Rating 5 of 5 stars

Blog Blast - 2nd July

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Can’t Wait Wednesday : Priest of Lies (War for the Rose Throne #2) by Peter McLean

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Priest of Lies (War for the Rose Throne #2) by Peter McLean.  I’m very excited to see what happens in book 2.  My review for Priest of Bones is here.

Priest of Lies.jpgTomas Piety has been many things: soldier, priest, gangster…and spy. As Tomas’s power grows, the nobility better watch their backs, in this dark and gritty epic fantasy series.

People are weak, and the poorer and more oppressed they are, the weaker they become–until they can’t take it anymore. And when they rise up…may the gods help their oppressors.

When Tomas Piety returned from the war, he just wanted to rebuild his empire of crime with his gang of Pious Men. But his past as a spy for the Queen’s Men drew him back in and brought him more power than he ever imagined.

Now, with half of his city in ashes and the Queen’s Men at his back, the webs of political intrigue stretch out from the capital to pull Tomas in. Dannsburg is calling.

In Dannsburg the nobility fight with words, not blades, but the results are every bit as bloody. In this pit of beasts, Tomas must decide once and for all whether he is truly the people’s champion…or just a priest of lies.

Due for publication : July 2019

Priest of Bones (War for the Rose Throne #1) by Peter McLean

Today I’m pleased to be taking part in a blog blast for Priest of Bones.  Check out the banner below to see which other blogs are taking part and make sure to pay them a visit and check out their thoughts.

PriestofPriest of Bones.  Where to begin.  Well, I think saying that I had a really good time reading this book is probably the best sort of opener for any review.  I won’t use the word fun because any story set in a grim and brutal world, where ruthless crime lords are battling for turf really can’t be described in such terms.  So, not fun, but definitely entertaining and, with perfect pacing, a gripping read.

Already there are many comparisons out there for Priest of Bones – most commonly likening this to the Godfather – and to be honest definitely hold that in your mind if you’re going to pick this up but also keep in mind that this is set in a different world and time where swords and axes are the weapons of choice.  I enjoyed this change of tack to be honest.  This isn’t about a dark overlord trying to kill all humans and take over the world, it’s not about huge sweeping battles.  This story brings the fighting to a street level and gives us protagonists that are more goodfella than knightly fellows.

So, as the story begins we make the introduction of one Tomas Piety.  Returning from war with his ragtag band of soldiers and his Lieutenant Bloody Anne, Tomas hopes to keep his soldiers on as Pious men.  Before Tomas was conscripted he was the head of the Pious Men, just one of the underworld gangs that run the streets of Ellinburg.  Of course, Tomas has been away for some time, as have most of the crime lords that were once in charge of the streets, and things have changed, not least of all the businesses once owned by Tomas having been take over by others.  Tomas is going to have to take swift and bloody action to reclaim what was once his.  Of course, not everything is what it seems.  Tomas may have lost his business interests but the other rival gangs are not at the heart of the takeover.  It seems that the streets of Ellinburg are being slowly infiltrated by newcomers who have a secret agenda, one that involves Tomas being forced to undertake work on behalf of the Queen’s Men.  Working for the Queen’s Men is tantamount to being a turncoat, if anybody finds out Tomas will be hung out to dry without any questions being asked.  As you can imagine, between trying to reclaim his businesses, keeping his crew in order and spying for the Queen’s Men Tomas really is sitting pretty between a rock and a hard place.

With a couple of minor reservations I really enjoyed this one.  I would plainly state that this is a book that doesn’t flinch away from the blood and guts or from the brutal scenes.  It’s not pretty and it certainly isn’t Middle Earth(ish) so you might want to consider that before embarking on Tomas’s story.  If you’ve read McLean’s Burned Man series you’ll be aware that his writing can be quite to the point, he doesn’t shy away from curse words or harshness.  For the record I’m not trying to paint this as overly grimdark because I didn’t find this as gut churning as some books that I’ve read in the not too distant past.  But, war is cruel and gangsters and crime lords are not renowned for their sweet and cuddly natures.

In terms of the characters.  Tomas is our pov character but he quite generously shares information about the other characters in his crew.  I enjoyed the way the back stories unfolded as part of the narrative and also with a degree of expectation that you would realise or understand the implied nature of things and reach the appropriate conclusion.  There are no info dumps here rather the inclusion of material as and when necessary that helps to build things in a steady but unobtrusive fashion.  Tomas is not necessarily a lovable character, he’s a gangster and a gang boss to boot.  In his favour however he won’t put up with certain behaviour.  He doesn’t condone drugs or rape and although he ‘taxes’ the people of Ellinburg he also wants to keep the place running smoothly and keep people fed and employed.  Regardless of his criminal proclivities you could say he cares.  He’s no Robin Hood but at the same time he’s not totally wicked or bereft of feeling.  I wouldn’t say that I’ve totally warmed to him just yet and he’s not become a lovable rogue but I would say that he has a feeling of ‘better the devil you know’ and like moss, that will grow whether you want it to or not, I think he’s started to grow on me.  I’m not going to give a breakdown of the other characters but I will give a shout out to the young boy called Billy – he fascinates me.  I want more of his character without a doubt.  I will even say please.  Pretty please sir, I want some more.

The setting could in fact be almost out of a Dicken’s novel.  It’s got that seedy dark underworld feel that some of Dicken’s stories had.  The streets feel ramshackle and grubby, people live in extreme poverty and there is a definite feeling of patience wearing thin.  I wouldn’t say that the world building is really strong here but I don’t mean that negatively.  I had enough to have a feel for the place and I think there’s plenty of room for growth in future books – I’m assuming there are more due but I’m not sure how many at this point

In terms of criticisms I don’t have anything significant.  I felt that at the start of the book Tomas repeated himself a little when he was talking about members of his crew – particularly in terms of their loyalty (or not).  It’s only a small thing and whilst it didn’t really bother me I was aware of it which in turn made me wonder if it was foreshadowing of things yet to come.  I also haven’t really become strongly attached to the characters.  They haven’t quite jumped off the page for me just yet but I do like Billy, well, I find him very intriguing, and Tomas is also starting to starting to grow on me as I mentioned above.

Overall, I found Priest of Bones a strong, entertaining read.  In a nutshell and simply put – I enjoyed it.  The plot develops really well, there’s a sense of ever growing threat and the pacing is absolutely spot on.  I cannot fault the writing  or the way that I was hooked to the page waiting to see what would happen next.  I very much look forward to the next book.

I would just say a quick word about potential triggers, this book is definitely not a YA read and contains violence and language.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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Can’t Wait Wednesday : Priest of Bones (War for the Rose Throne #1) by Peter McLean

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Priest of Bones (War for the Rose Throne #1) by Peter McLean:

Priestof.jpgThe first in a brand new dark and gritty epic fantasy series, where a crime boss comes home from the war only to find that his businesses have been stolen from him.

It’s a dangerous thing, to choose the lesser of two evils.

The war is over, and army priest Tomas Piety finally heads home with Lieutenant Bloody Anne at his side. When he arrives in the Stink, Tomas finds that his empire of crime has been stolen from him while at war. With his gang of Pious Men, Tomas will do whatever it takes to reclaim his businesses. But when he finds himself dragged into a web of political intrigue once again, and is forced to work in secret for the sinister Queen’s Men, everything gets more complicated.

When loyalties stretch to the breaking point and violence only leads to violence, when people have run out of food, and hope, and places to hide, do not be surprised if they have also run out of mercy. As the Pious Men fight shadowy foreign infiltrators in the backstreet taverns and gambling dens of Tomas’s old life it becomes clear; the war is not over.

It is only just beginning.

Due for publication October 2018

Damnation by Peter McLean (The Burned Man #3)

damnationDamnation is the third instalment in the Burned Man series and picks up about six months after the conclusion of events in Dominion where the main protagonist found himself employed by a Goddess with vengeance on her mind.  For the record this being the third in series the review below will undoubtedly contain spoilers so please bear this in mind before reading further.

I will start out by saying that Damnation is not my favourite of the series so far, but, that being said I am invested in the story and will definitely continue.  For me, this book had two main issues that prevented me from loving it – firstly, it did nothing to endear me further to the main character, Drake, and secondly, it felt very much like a ‘filler’ or set up book for the next in series.

As mentioned, we start 6 months after Dominion where we learn of Don’s rapid decline since he departed London to try and track his former girlfriend Debbie.
Unfortunately the search goes very poorly and nobody is inclined to help Don.  Why would they after all?  Debbie is a very talented alchemist who doesn’t want to be found by her cheating former boyfriend so there’s no reason for her new clients to give up her new location and earn her displeasure.  Don finds himself quickly spiralling out of control, he has little money and this results in him taking unpalatable jobs which eventually leads him down the route of drugs (which coincidentally help him to block out the voice of the demon now residing inside his head).  I keep thinking with each book that Don has reached an all time low but in this instalment he really does surpass himself by hitting rock bottom.  I actually thought this part of the story flowed well.  It’s full of darkness and despair which is natural given the situation.  Don is not only desperate in his search, and without means to continue, but is also trying to remain beneath the radar of his former companions and remain hidden.  Thankfully, his whereabouts are eventually discovered but not before he’s made the acquaintance of a very seedy character named Davey.  Davey is no ordinary mundane – he has an aura of something different and he positively reeks of power, he certainly doesn’t feel like somebody that you should mess with.  But bluntly, Don gets himself into a whole heap of trouble and without the cavalry rushing in to save him things were basically and literally going to hell in a handcart.

What  I liked about this instalment is we find out some more about Don and maybe his true beginnings.  We get to spend more time with the characters that we’re already familiar with such as Trixie – who I really do like – and we make the discovery of a number of revelations.  Don may be employed by a Goddess which gives him some sort of power but it all feels like little more than a front, if he wants to go out he’s escorted there and back and has little actual access to cash.  Of course Trixie, almost fallen completely from virtue herself, is readily on hand to assist Don – even when he’s making some pretty bad decisions.  And this leads to one of my main gripes.

Why did Don go to find Debbie?  For me his reasoning came across as a bit flimsy and little more than a way to further the plot.  Even if I bought into the reasoning it would do little to make me like him more.  I’ve said throughout the series that Don is something of a cowardly character.  He’s not really entirely likable but I was hoping that he would turn into something of a lovable rogue, because I also believe that he’s not totally bad.  As it is I’m finding my patience running a little bit thin.  He makes one bad decision after another and his choices in this instalment have an impact on others.  It just leaves me feeling very frustrated with him.

In terms of pace, this felt a little slow in terms of plot.  I’m not primarily concerned with a fast paced story but apart from a very good gritty and bleak start I thought this felt a little too much like it was progressing to something much bigger – something that will be continued in the next book.

I like the writing, I think McLean sets the scene well, it has a nasty dark realism feel that may be too near to the knuckle for some and certainly isn’t shy in terms of profanity.  I didn’t really mind that, I thought it fit the circumstances and in fact would have been less convincing if it was cleaned up.

Overall, I am committed to continuing this series.  I need to find out how the next part of the story progresses but I can’t deny that at the moment I’m at a bit of a low ebb in terms of Don Drake.  I hope that the next books helps to redeem him somewhat.

I received a copy through Netgalley courtesy of the publisher for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

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