Having utterly fallen in love with Freya Marske’s writing in A Marvellous Light, I’m thrilled to be part of the blog tour for the second book in the Last Binding series, A Restless Truth!
Book: A Restless Truth by Freya Marske
Publication date: 10th November 2022
Ownership: Proof copy sent free of charge by Black Crow PR and Tor Books. All opinions my own.
Content warnings: violence, injury, death and murder; poisoning/drugging; mind control/coercion/truth spells; mentions of period-appropriate homophobia (not experienced by main cast).
Magic! Murder! Shipboard romance!
The most interesting things in Maud Blyth’s life have happened to her brother Robin, but she’s ready to join any cause, especially if it involves magical secrets that may threaten the whole of the British Isles. Bound for New York on the R.M.S. Lyric, she’s ready for an adventure.
What she actually finds is a dead body, a disrespectful parrot, and a beautiful stranger in Violet Debenham, who is everything—a magician, an actress, a scandal—Maud has been trained to fear and has learned to desire. Surrounded by the open sea and a ship full of loathsome, aristocratic suspects, they must solve a murder and untangle a conspiracy that began generations before them.
I will admit that I was very apprehensive going into this book, for the simple reason that I absolutely adored the main characters of book one and I knew this was going to be a switch to a different lead couple. I really didn’t want to leave Robin and Edwin behind, and I couldn’t see how they could be taken out of the over-arching story without losing a lot of the charm that made me fall in love with A Marvellous Light. (If you want to see my glowing review of that, you can find it here.)
Of course, I needn’t have worried.
Yes, A Restless Truth is a very different book to its predecessor – there’s the glamorous transatlantic sea voyage, for a start, rather than the crumbling English country estates; there’s a cast with what seems at first to be very little overlap; and the tone is somewhat different – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t equally good, and built on the same bones of righteous anger, deep sensuality, and great emotional work! If you love the way that Freya Marske can absolutely skewer a character with their own background, and make your insides ache for them in the way you can see their soul in every move they make, then this will not disappoint. And the mystery (about which I obviously can’t say too much) is wonderful too – fun, action-packed, and intriguing enough to keep you flipping pages long into the night.
This feels to me like a sharper book overall, mostly thanks to the bitterness of its main cast – both Maud and Violet are pricklier, angrier, wielding their secrets and trauma like knives. A Marvellous Light often had me grinning or giggling at the dialogue between Robin and Edwin, or the situations they got into – not that there wasn’t also a hell of an emotional punch, but a lot of the first half of the book certainly felt more light-hearted, with its parties and magic, like KJ Charles meets PG Wodehouse. A Restless Truth, on the other hand, is KJ Charles meets Agatha Christie – everyone is more mistrustful, and the atmosphere feels ready to blow at any point. There are some funny moments for sure, but the edges of conversations are simply sharper. I absolutely adored the way Maud and Violet’s relationship developed, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not so much of a warm-and-fuzzy bond growing as a set of very jagged puzzle pieces clashing until they click. It’s also just as steamy as the first, and the chemistry is phenomenal!
I think if it’s been a while since you read A Marvellous Light, it’s definitely worth going back for a quick reread to refresh yourself about the overarching plot – while things are re-explained to catch you up, it’s good to have the knowledge of who everyone we’ve met before is and what they’re hunting for. Maud’s backstory, in particular, is stronger if you remember what Robin’s previously revealed about their family (and it’s fascinating to compare them as siblings – as I say, they couldn’t be more different, and yet they’re very realistically grown from the same trauma). While the romances appear to be fairly self-contained (and there’s a lovely cameo from our favourite guys at the very end!) the main plot is definitely building across the whole series, so don’t start here!
In a pinch, book one is still my favourite (what can I say, I love a country house party) – but this is an admirable follow-up and I’ll be continuing to recommend this series to every historical fantasy lover for a long time. It’s really just brilliant! Five out of five cats.
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