Priest of Lies by Peter McLean
Priest of Lies (2019) is the second book in Peter McLean’s WAR FOR THE ROSE THRONE. You’ll need to read the first book, Priest of Bones, first. This review will have some spoilers for that first novel.
It’s been six months since the events that happened at the end of Priest of Bones. Tomas is now married to Elsa, the Queen’s Man who has been (unbeknownst to the rest of the Pious Men) directing his behavior in service of the crown. The marriage is a sham and Tomas has soured on Elsa after the explosion that she orchestrated killed hundreds of people in his city. He isn’t sure (and neither am I) that it was necessary or wise. He also doesn’t like his new high-class lifestyle.
When Elsa gets summoned to the capital city of Dannsburg, Tomas has to accompany her. There he enters a totally different type of society that he’s not prepared for. He is uncomfortable with Elsa’s aristocratic family, colleagues, and acquaintances and, from their perspective, Tomas is just a low-life crime boss. As he moves amongst them, Tomas witnesses their vices, ruffles their feathers, rights some wrongs, and gets some revenge. Meanwhile, he worries about his property and interests back in Ellinburg, and also about his brother who is becoming even more unhinged. When he finally returns to Ellinburg, he discovers that there must be a traitor among the Pious Men, and that’s something that has to be taken care of with the utmost ruthlessness.
Much of the plot of Priest of Lies involves political intrigue, retaliation, and revenge. Tomas finds out that high society is just as corrupt and vulgar as the street culture he’s familiar with. Politicians are a lot like gangsters.
I had a hard time believing in Elsa’s change in personality and Tomas’s fickle feelings toward her. It seems like a plot device. Tomas becomes even more brutal and tyrannical than he was in the first book, though some of this is directed by those who are pulling his strings. It was too violent for my preferences, but readers who love grimdark fantasy will probably feel differently.
At the end of Priest of Lies there are some big changes for Tomas, both in terms of his political position and his personality. There are signs that he is going down the wrong path. It will be interesting to find out what happens next. I visited Peter McLean’s website but did not learn when we should expect a third novel.
John Lee gives a perfect performance in Penguin Audio’s edition of Priest of Lies. It’s 11 hours long and highly recommended for readers who want to read WAR FOR THE ROSE THRONE.
This sounds like it might be a bit too violent for me, too. The first one sounded interesting, though.