May 27, 2024

Review: A Restless Truth

A Restless Truth A Restless Truth by Freya Marske
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This second book in the Last Binding trilogy follows the plotline generated in the first (that of a rogue group of British magicians searching for the three items that make up the Last Contract with the fae before they left this alternate world, which items would enable the magicians to share each other's power), but concentrates on different characters. In this case, our protagonist is Maud Blyth, the sister of Robin Blyth, the hero of the first novel A Marvellous Light , and Violet Debenham, an actor/performance artist/magician she meets on board the Lyric on its cruise back to England with Elizabeth Navenby, the holder of the second item of the Last Contract.

(The Lyric is mentioned as being a ship of the White Star Line, presumably a sister ship of the Titanic in this alternate history. At least the author resisted the temptation to let this ship sink.)

Unfortunately for Mrs. Navenby, she is murdered in the first chapter, and the rest of the book tells of Maud's and Violet's attempts to solve her murder, find the item she has been guarding, and keep said item safe. Along the way we get the full backstory of the Forsythia Club, the group of four women who discovered the items ("coin, cup and knife") of the Last Contract decades ago and hid them. Oh yeah, and Maud and Violet....don't exactly fall in love, as Maud's brother Robin and Edwin Courcey did in the previous book, but they do start a relationship. (The timeline for this book is six days on board ship, which would have been a bit too insta-love for me. Fortunately, the author realizes this. Maud and Violet don't say they are in love at the end, but they do intend to keep seeing each other.) Violet Debenham is a complex character with several layers and a bit of a traumatic past, and lingering issues that do not get solved in this book, although at least she makes a commintment to do so, for Maud. Maud, on the other hand, stubborn, noble, idealistic and naive as she is, explores her sexuality and discovers there are many layers of grey to the world. She also finds out she is a spirit medium. (Odd not-quite-magical talents seem to run in the Blyth family, as Robin is a foreseer.)

We also find out a bit more about this world's magical society and the strict limits this universe places on magic. I appreciated the obviously well-thought-out worldbuilding. The secondary characters in this story, particularly the grumpy and sarcastic Lord Hawthorn, Edwin Courcey's former paramour from the first book who gets roped into Maud's schemes, are well drawn and given ample opportunites to shine (and apparently Hawthorn takes center stage in the third and final book).

This book does not lag as so many middle entries of trilogies do. I'm looking forward to the last book.

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