Book Review: The Tyranny of Faith by Richard Swan

book review the tyranny of faith richard swan

Title: The Tyranny of Faith (Empire of the Wolf #2)

Author: Richard Swan

Publisher: Orbit

Publication date: February 14, 2023

Genre: Fantasy

One Sentence Summary: Vonvalt, Helena, Bressinger, and their newest companion Sir Radomir have made it to Sova and are quickly drawn into the schemes of the Emperor and the kidnapping of the heir’s son, all while Claver remains a threat at the southern edge of the empire.

the tyranny of faith richard swan

The Tyranny of Faith is one book where I felt the story really should have shone, especially with a title like that and after following a strong first book. Maybe it’ll all make better sense and really come together in the third book, but, right now, I feel like the story let down the title. That’s not to say I didn’t like this book. I’ll admit I felt like I was slogging through it, but Helena telling the story years down the line is growing on me and I appreciate that she doesn’t build herself up in her telling. I love watching her grow into whatever her eventual role is, and just how much she’ll risk life and limb for the family she’s come to be a part of. Unfortunately, there are a lot of threads going through this book, and they were poorly woven together.


Let’s start with the good. I love Helena. She’s spunky, but thoughtful. Since she’s telling this story years after the events, it’s interesting to get her take on it all both from when she lived through it and now that she’s had some time to reflect. I wasn’t a big fan of this style in the first book since I felt like it yanked all the tension out of the book. This is still true in the second book, but there were other things for my brain to focus on, so I wasn’t bothered as much by the overall lack of tension. I mean, it’s a little hard to fear for Helena’s life considering she’s the one telling the story much later on. I also think it interesting how she can recall such detail years later, so I wonder how truthful her account actually is, but I found myself impatiently waiting for things she mentioned early on to finally occur.

Helena herself, well, I think I have to take her with a small grain of salt. After all, she is telling the story, so her account of herself may not be fully accurate. But I find I believe her. She’s honest about her shortcomings and fears. I love how she can be terrified, yet her love for Vonvalt, Bressinger, and Radomir will get her to do anything for them. She’s basically one of the guys, but I like how there’s still a touch of femininity to her and she’ll use it whenever she needs to. She’s just such a fascinating character to me that, while I really liked Vonvalt in the first book, it’s Helena who captured me in the second book. She feels like she’s coming into her own and developing her own ideas and thoughts about everything, so she feels more than just a protege and clerk.

Claver and the Missing Political Intrigue

This is what I hoped The Tyranny of Faith would focus on and have the core story be. Claver is, I suppose, basically a priest-like character. He’s risen up in his religious order and still believes the powers the Justices wield should also be his. In The Tyranny of Faith, he’s almost fully evaded Vonvalt, but is still causing trouble for our Justice as Vonvalt is practically obsessed with catching him. He’s made friends down in the Frontier with a margrave and has Templars, priests, and nuns at his beck and call. He felt like a wispy sort of character when I first met him at the beginning of The Justice of Kings, and now he feels like a holy terror with a great deal more power. Because of him and the politics in Sova, I had hoped this would be the central story. I found Claver to be incredibly divisive and I liked how it contributed to the division on the political scene. Political intrigue is one of my favorite things in high fantasy, so I adored all of it in the first half of The Tyranny of Faith. There was so much going on, especially with a moody Emperor who later feels like he’s just lost control of everything, the rooting out of treacherous members of the Magistratum he ordered not helping at all. I just wanted to see all that fallout and the chaos Claver creates from a distance.

But back to Claver. Even though he’s in the Frontier, he still has a heavy hand in Sovan politics. It’s obscured by the division between the Mlyanars and Haugenates in the Senate, as well as the religious division between the Draedists and the Neman Church. Between the political and religious unrest, there’s more than enough to keep things interesting, especially with Claver having a hand in just about everything. It’s clear he’s a huge threat to Sova and the Empire, and yet he gets relegated to the back for much of this book, no matter how much Vonvalt stews on not being able to go after him. There’s clearly a desire to make Claver the focus, so it was often frustrating to just watch him be pushed into the backseat over and over. I think the intrigue in this book could have been a bit wild and just as exciting, but I guess I cannot forget that this trilogy mixes high fantasy and legal thriller.

Kidnapped Prince

And with a mix of high fantasy and legal thriller there must come a crime of some sort. The Justice of Kings had a murder investigation that required Helena to go undercover. The Tyranny of Faith has the heir of the heir kidnapped, a young prince who is the son of a political marriage between two people who have zero affection for each other where the mother has close ties to the Confederation the Empire is basically at war with. While I liked how this seems to be kick starting what I’m hoping will be at play in the third book, this was really predictable. The initial investigation kept my interest, but it quickly waned as it went on and on with so much brewing on the horizon. This was the weakest plot and relied too much on Vonvalt and his team trusting too much. I suppose I could understand that since they want to be done with this so they can go after Claver, but it made what could have been an interesting investigation feel like it was thrown in to have a crime. Despite the characters mentioning the prince from time to time in the second half, it was easy to forget there was even a kidnapping because it didn’t actually have a ton of impact on the present story. I just hope it finishes playing out in the third book and I’ll be happy it was included in this one.


This feels like it came out of the blue. I never got the impression there was anything between Helena and Vonvalt other than mentor and mentee in the first book. As a matter of fact, Helena spent part of the first book smitten with someone else and seriously considering not becoming a Justice. And now she’s been in love with Vonvalt for how long? This just fell completely flat for me. I had pictured Vonvalt to be more of a father figure to her and that would be why she sticks with him through all the danger. Well, that and the pay and general being able to live with a roof over her head and food in her stomach. But I’m bothered by the fact that, just a few weeks before, Helena had been smitten with another man and now she’s ready to jump in Vonvalt’s bed and feels threatened by a female Justice coming into their little circle. I’m not even sure how this romance contributes to any part of any of the plots. It felt badly placed and completely unnecessary and just left me feeling a letdown about Helena and Vonvalt.

A Deadly Curse

On top of everything else going on, Vonvalt appears to be completely falling apart (a great time for Helena to want to have a future with him!). His health has been going poorly since they left Galen’s Vale, but no one outside of their small circle seems to care Vonvalt appears to be dying. It was interesting in that it made Vonvalt’s true character more apparent in this book, making him feel very much human, but I was also frustrated with this plot because it kept getting shoved to the side no matter how dreadful Vonvalt looked. If the first half was about the kidnapping, the second half was definitely about Vonvalt’s illness. I liked how it put his team out into danger and had them wandering far from him in order to save his life. It was fantastic to see Bressinger, Radomir, and Helena without Vonvalt to really get at the ties between these three. I loved the feeling that they acted a lot like siblings with their bickering and love coming in turns, so it was fun to get to see them out on the road and in danger.

With this curse comes Claver, because of course Vonvalt and Claver are at complete odds and will do anything to bring the other down. It made for a fast-paced second half, though things were brought a little more full circle by the end. It was great to see just how mortal Vonvalt is, but I wish this had been more at the forefront as it had interesting things to say about Vonvalt’s character and a whole other realm full of demons.

Almost Too Much, But Hopefully a Good Set Up for Book 3

There’s a lot going on in The Tyranny of Faith, and my review doesn’t even cover everything. The characters undergo so much, they meet so many new and interesting people, and there’s just so much underlying politics and so much going on. There’s even a new Justice introduced that I briefly mentioned earlier. She’s an interesting one with an interesting power, and I liked how she tied the kidnapping and Claver together, but I wasn’t a fan of how transparent I found it as I figured it out halfway through. I have no idea what the third book could bring, but, after this book, there’s clearly a lot that needs to be jumped into and just as much to tie up. There were times when this book just felt overly laden with things, and they felt a little too split up to be woven together into a seamless story, but I’m interested to see where it all goes.

How many cups of tea will you need?

3 cups

Get your copy (The Lily Cafe is NOT an Amazon affiliate)

Thank you to Orbit and Angela Man for a physical review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

Head over to the Bookshelf to check out my reviews of books from the Big 5 and self-published, indie, and small press books.

This blog is my home base, but you can also find me on:

Pinterest | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Tyranny of Faith by Richard Swan

  1. Great review! I agree with pretty much everything you said. Lol. The more I think about it, the more I hate the romance. I had forgotten about the other dude she was into, and remembering that now just makes the romance in this book even worse.


Chat with me

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.