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Monday, December 20, 2021

The Liar's Knot by M.A. Carrick - Review

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read Caitlin's review of The Mask of Mirrors HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: M.A. Carrick is the joint pen name of Marie Brennan (author of the Memoirs of Lady Trent) and Alyc Helms (author of the Adventures of Mr. Mystic). The two met in 2000 on an archaeological dig in Wales and Ireland — including a stint in the town of Carrickmacross — and have built their friendship through two decades of anthropology, writing, and gaming. They live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

(And if you were wondering: Marie’s name is accented on the second syllable, mah-REE, and Alyc’s name is uh-LISS, “like a list of items without the T.” Marie is she/her, and Alyc is they/them.

FORMAT/INFO: The Liar's Knot was published on December 7th, 2021 by Orbit Books. It is 639 pages split over 25 chapters. It is told in third person from multiple POVs, including Ren, Vargo, Grey, and the Rook. It is available in paperback and ebook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The curse stalking the dreams of Nadezra may be broken, but the city itself remains on the verge of chaos. As con artist Ren assumes a temporary position as the head of House Tremantis, she finds herself torn between the duties of running a noble house and the aid she can lend the city at large in her new persona as the Black Rose. With a new task force terrorizing the Vraszenian population in the name of rooting out rebels, Vargo increasing his power among both the nobility and the street gangs, Ren’s growing feelings for Vigil captain Grey Serrado, and the Rook entreating the Black Rose to aid him in a 200-year-long fight, Ren’s life quickly becomes a complicated knot. It’s a balancing act that increasingly requires trust, and Ren has little of that to spare. So which scheme will come crashing down first?

The Liar's Knot is a beautiful dance of cons and secret identities, brimming with the tension that comes from a cast of characters who are each pursuing a hidden agenda. At any moment, any combination of Ren, Grey, Vargo, and the Rook could be working together or at cross purposes, those alliances or enmities shifting as new information comes to light. Adding to the tension (or sometimes hilarious awkwardness) is the fact that all of our characters have imperfect information. One character may know of another’s double life, but not vice versa. So when two characters run into each other in various disguises, panic ensues. Are they here because they’ve discovered my secrets? Or is this purely an accident?

The languid pacing of The Mask of Mirrors returns, and this is always the make or break for whether or not you will enjoy this series. Personally, I love every second I spend in this world, and don’t mind that it takes me a bit to get through the 600+ pages. I’m more than happy to sink into Nadezra for hours, going to parties, running across rooftops with the Rook, untangling dark conspiracies, and infiltrating crime organizations. Really, my only complaint is that after the book took its time with most of the plot, the finale felt like it went by in a breeze, particularly with regards to one or two critical character beats. It is a minor note, however, in a series that continues to be one of my favorite releases in recent years.

This latest entry in the Rook & Rose also brings satisfying answers to questions that were only teased in The Mask of Mirrors. The purpose of the Rook is revealed, as is a sinister conspiracy hiding within the noble houses. There’s still plenty to be resolved in the final book, but it didn’t feel like a middle book stalling for time.

CONCLUSION: The Liar's Knot is an immensely satisfying follow-up to The Mask of Mirrors; if you have any affection at all for that first book, you must hop to the sequel immediately. Rook & Rose is quickly cementing its place in my Favorite Series of All Time list, and the final book cannot get here soon enough!

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