Title: The Liar’s Knot (Rook & Rose #2)
Author: M.A. Carrick
Publication date: December 7. 2021
One Sentence Summary: Now officially a member of the Traementis family, Ren finds herself wearing four different masks and accidentally falling into helping the Rook with his goal of cleansing Nadezra of the poison spread by the king who conquered the country.
Warning: Spoilers for the first book, The Mask of Mirrors, lie directly ahead.
The Liar’s Knot is the second in the Rook & Rose trilogy and serves to pull the three main characters tighter together. Just as in the first book, the world is rich and detailed and the characters are walking fine lines with the different masks they wear and the different paths they walk towards what appear to be the same goals. A lot of the first half felt slow and focused too much on how Ren worked to balance all of the different masks she now wears, but the second half definitely spun a more complicated web that drew her closer to Grey and Vargo, and the two men closer than they probably ever wanted. Overall, this is a complex and layered story where some of it was a little difficult to keep straight and I, frankly, gave up on trying to figure it all out, but the storytelling is incredible and I never really felt like I was missing out on anything.
Following the events of The Mask of Mirrors, Ren the con artist has successfully conned herself into the Traementis family and has become newly inscribed into the family register as Renata, Vargo has been ennobled but still keeps his Lower Bank business all while pursuing something greater involving numinatria and his spider companion, and Grey has been revealed as the Rook. But things get complicated quickly as their seemingly different paths converge.
Now wearing four masks (Arenza the Vraszenian szorsa, Renata the newest member of House Traementis, Ren the con artist, and Lady Rose who was born from Azerais’s Dream), Ren finds it increasingly difficult to keep her different identities separate, especially when they all keep drawing her closer and closer to Vargo and Grey. But, as that happens, she becomes increasingly aware of the two men’s goals: one to help a longtime companion find his revenge and the other to cleanse the city of a poison spread by Kaius Rex, the man who took over Nadezra centuries before.
Just like the first book, The Liar’s Knot dumped me straight into the world and the story, but, fortunately, it was a lot easier to pick it all back up than it was to get to know it for the first time in the first book. What I love about this trilogy is how lush and utterly intricately detailed the world is. It provides a real, moving backdrop for the characters and story to move around in. But that’s not to say the world building is the only fantastic part of this book and the trilogy as a whole. The story always has something to throw in, something to keep things moving and keep the reader guessing. So many revelations are made, and I always think they come too soon, but then more questions and mysteries arise and I come to understand I really don’t know what’s going to happen and what to expect and that’s truly the best reading experience for this reader. The characters, too, are incredibly realistic and Ren’s exhaustion having to keep up four different personas was palpable. I do wish some of the more minor characters had more opportunities to shine, but this is really Ren, Vargo, and Grey’s story, and it definitely was an incredible one to read.
I adore everything about this world. There’s history to it and structure that makes it live and breathe. It very much feels like the authors thought out every little detail to create an incredibly rich tapestry full of depth and color. It’s so detailed, but not in a completely overwhelming way, that I didn’t even need the included map to figure out where everything was and what it might look like. I loved the variation in the different areas and how it affected the ways in which people lived. But I also really enjoyed the conflict between the conquering Liganti and the native Vraszenian. There’s clearly a struggle, and yet the world functions extremely well, in terms of the story being told. What I loved most, though, was feeling like I was dropped into the world and it rose up in my mind so I could walk around with the characters.
Honestly, Ren was a little exhausting. With four different personas, much of the story was focused on her and what felt like her day-to-day life. I really enjoyed the romance introduced into her life, but I felt there were quite a few quiet moments when more important and interesting things were being done by other characters. It also kind of made her seem like she was jumping from one mask to another and no one really seemed to question it. I would have appreciated more conflict between all four masks and how it might impact the people around her. But I did feel she carried it off well, and things started to feel a lot simpler when she started revealing herself.
Vargo, as always, was a ton of fun. Rising from Lower Bank scum to having a noble house of his own, and an opportunity to get a Cinquerat seat, I couldn’t help but admire how he so neatly balanced the two sides of himself. He’s not wholly welcome in either world now that he straddles both, but he makes it work. The best part of him though is his spider friend. I loved everything about that revelation and how it helped develop the story and make things a lot more fun for more of the characters. I love how his personality felt like it kept shifting, but I think, deep down, he’s really a good guy, even if some of what he does is quite questionable.
And then there’s Grey. I love Grey so much. He’s upright and moral, always trying to do the right thing. He looks out for his own, and his struggles were sometimes just so difficult that I really felt for him. The two sides of him were a lot of fun and I loved that he was able to play both roles while still maintaining the core of himself. It was fantastic to really get to know both sides since his secret was revealed at the end of the first book, and I loved how it did and didn’t change the way he interacted with the other characters. Because of it, there are some fun bits that I really enjoyed, but it also made the ending a little heartbreaking for me, and leaves me wondering quite a bit.
But I really have to mention Giuna here. I wish there had been more of her because she really came into her own and it was amazing! From the almost timid girl in the first book who’s starry eyed at her long-long cousin, she really grew in this book. It was fantastic to see her growth, and her developing a tough spine. I just wish she’d had more scenes. Her and Tess. Tess certainly had to her role to play and did it to perfection; I just wish we’d seen more of her as well. I was dearly missing out on Ren and Tess scenes, but it was understandable.
The Liar’s Knot certainly presents a tangled, knotted story that just tightened as the story wore on. So many revelations occur, so many changes take place that the tangled web just seemed to grow ever more tangled and ever more tighter. As much as some scenes were on the boring side and didn’t necessarily add to the story, they helped develop the characters and their relationships, which really helped create the knotted story that drew them so tightly together. There were many times where I just had no idea where the story was going and I felt a little frustrated at the beginning with it’s slow start and not much happening. But then, like the first book, the halfway point came and then everything just seemed to cascade into an impossible to untangle knot.
The Liar’s Knot presents a complicated, layered story. Despite some slower parts and scenes that don’t really advance the story much, there’s a richness to this story and world that makes reading it into an immersive experience. I really enjoyed walking through the story and world with the characters. I loved how they became wound tighter and tighter together despite the tensions that arose and previously existed between them. Most of all, I loved how they all had to balance the different parts of who they are. There were times when it felt almost pointless for them to try to hide from each other, but some of it was quite a bit of fun. Overall, The Liar’s Knot is an incredible second book in the trilogy and I look forward to what the final book has to offer and how it’ll close out the story of Ren, Grey, and Vargo.
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Thank you to Angela Man at Orbit for a physical review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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