Cover Image: A Restless Truth

A Restless Truth

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Member Reviews

A Restless Truth was one of my most anticipated releases (despite not reading its prequel A Marvellous Light before requesting this as an ARC). It was a lovely introduction to Freya Marske and an even lovelier introduction to a WLW-centric fantasy book with very low stakes.

I will say, I loved it until I didn’t, and that is partly due to the fact that I knowingly read this without reading the first book in the trilogy. I was a little lost when it came to the magic system and the plot itself, and while it was not difficult to understand or keep up, it fell a little flat and was almost boring.

One of my biggest issues was feeling like I was lost. Suddenly an action-packed scene/sequence was happening and I had no idea how we got there. There seemed to be a disconnect in the chapters, and the fact that the book takes place in 6 days felt jarring.

On the other hand, I loved Maud and Violet.  Violet most of all. I wanted so much more of her and I was delighted to see a woman who was so sure of herself sexually. I do wish both women had been aged a bit; they felt too young and that took me away from the intensity of their time together.

Overall I am very glad I read this, and I am grateful to have received an ARC! Thank you NetGalley, MacMillan and Freya Marske for sharing this story with me.
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Thank you Netgalley for the e-ARC of this title. I enjoyed reading this title. Would recommend for my library.
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You had me at magic and murder! The Last Binding trilogy is a highly recommend for lovers of queer, history, and fantasy reads. Definitely need to start with A Marvellous Light though to catch it all as the characters really follow through.

A Restless Truth follows Maud Blyth as she sets off for New York in search of adventure. She ends up finding so much more, caught between a murder, a romance, and a hilariously disrespectful parrot, Maud is truly in for the adventure of a lifetime! Stranded on a ship in the sea, Maud and Violet are determined to solve the mysteries of past and present and untangle the web of a generations-long conspiracy. 

This was such an enjoyable book, and I look forward to completing the trilogy! I really find it easy to connect with the characters (well, mostly the parrot!) and find myself rooting for them. If you throw in a little magic and mystery, it really is the best combination. Not only are the characters and story enjoyable, but the writing style is so captivating that I truly felt lost in the realm of the story. 

Thank you to Tor/Forge and NetGalley for my eARC in exchange for an honest review!
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In the sequel to “The Marvelous Light”, Freya Marske explores female sexuality and love in a brave and daring manner. Picking up with a new set of protagonists, Maud Blyth and Violet Debenham, Freya Marske continues the narrative of The Last Contract while simultaneously developing both characters and setting up a simmering romance between the pair. She juggles all the fantasy and romance elements with a bold dash of intrigue and mystery. And just as with the first book, you fall in love with both Maud and Violet, despite their flaws and imperfections. 

In the process, Freya Marske also develops many of the secondary characters, creating a larger world involved in the mystery of the contract and further shares the story of how the Forsythe club found the three items in their possession. While the immediate problems are resolved by the end of the novel, there are enough loose ends to keep readers coming back for the next novel. I have my suspicions as to who the third book might feature but I can’t wait for the next story in the series. The world is well developed, it’s fun, full of threats but also a wonderful blend of romance and magic. The sex scenes and romance between the women is brave and daring, sharing a meaningful relationship and steamy exploration.  

If you love romance and magic and you liked the previous novel, I highly recommend A Restless Truth. The magic and intrigue will hook you but the romance will keep you coming back for more.
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I adored A Marvellous Light and was NOT disappointed with the sequel. Not only did I love the romance and the sapphic pairing but I loved all the side characters and storyline. 

The characters were so enjoyable and easy to connect with. I love how the theme of ‘Restless Truth’ was woven throughout the pages. I loved Maud and Violet so much and how well their dynamic worked. The humanness and vulnerability and stubbornness they both shared was so beautiful. I LOVED Hawthorn so much and cannot wait for the third book. 

The humor and sensuality in this book were delicious. The writing was so eloquent and the story, atmospheric. I couldn’t put this book down. I loved still feeling connected to the first book’s characters while enjoying a brand new pairing. The plot and the manhunt and cat and mouse chase was BRILLIANT.
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Atmospheric, action-packed, and clever, A Restless Truth by Freya Marske is the second installment in her Last Binding series. Maud Blyth follows in the footsteps of her brother Robin, one of the main characters in the preceding book A Marvellous Light, as she dips her toes into the unexpected mystery she encounters aboard the Lyric, a White Star luxury line ship. 

When Maud’s elderly traveling companion is killed on the journey from New York to England, Maud suspects it is the work of magicians whose goal is to unite the separated parts of a magical contract, with the intention of using that contract for nefarious purposes. Together with the help of a scandal-ridden actress/magician from New York named Violet, an erotica-peddling thief named Ross, and an extremely reluctant peer of the realm, Lord Hawthorn, Maud must comb the massive ship to find the killer (or killers). Determined not to disappoint her brother Robin and his partner Edwin, the non-magical Maud uses her relentless perseverance to find the truth, thrilling in the subterfuge, magic, and menagerie in which she finds herself. Along the way, she explores her budding attraction to Violet, a woman reluctant to share more of herself than necessary, though the two come together before long.

Marske, who set a high bar with A Marvellous Light, manages to follow through in this sequel. The story is confined to the ship, but the lush descriptions of its decor, fixtures, and accompanying lifestyle bring a sense of atmosphere that draws in a reader and brings to mind The Titanic. Marske’s lush writing also shows itself in the handful of sex scenes between Maud and Violet, vividly portraying the attraction shared between the two.

Ultimately, although A Restless Truth is relatively narrow in focus when compared to the first book in The Last Binding series, it nevertheless builds upon the magic first seen in A Marvellous Light. The final book in the trilogy, A Power Unbound, is due for release in November of 2023, and will follow two new main characters: Ross and Lord Hawthorn, whose at-odds relationship sets a tension in this book that will likely draw readers in for the final installment.
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As with Marske's debut, this book is magical, fun, and sexy! I loved the setting. I found the middle of the book to drag on a bit, but overall, lots of fun!
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I possibly liked this even more than A Marvellous Light (and I really liked that one)!  Adventures on the high seas!  Romance! Danger!  Sexy TImes!  Oh boy, book 3 cannot come fast enough….

<I>ARC Provided by NetGalley<I>
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Ok, I'll get this out of the way because I don't want it to actually be the theme or how I finish this review, but this was definitely different from it's predecessor, A Marvellous Light . At first I had interpreted the difference as "not as good", but upon finishing it, I'd change my mind to think it's a different good, especially since it moves the overarching storyline forward.

I loved the intro, and then struggled to about 40% in. I decided to take a break (a few months actually) and despite that being a long time for a book pause, I dove back in and included an audiobook to help guide me to the end. Not only did it enhance the reading experience (loved the narrator Aysha Kala!), but reading it at 2-3 speed was a breeze. Though it seems like it was the only way to get through the last part, I believe the actual story itself also kicked into the next gear: the characters and their depth, some surprises and truth be told, it started to just became fun, and I loved that. I knew that we'd get this type of fun as it was truly hinted at the start of the book, yet I just didn't see it between 20%-40%.

I believe if I had read it all in one go, this would be an easy 5 stars. But because of how I struggled at the beginning and then needed that break - I felt it would be an imposter 5. So 4 it is, but I'm still holding it in high regard because I am now set and ready for the third and final book in this historical, queer, magical series! Bring it on!
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An enchanting, adventurous historical fantasy romance with sparkling prose and delightfully difficult characters. While I missed Robin and Edwin (both of whom are largely off page due to plot reasons), this sophomore story lets Maud and her partner in crime shine in the spotlight and embark on the next chapter of The Last Contract and its associated mysteries. While this installment’s pacing wasn’t entirely smooth sailing, the characters are so much fun that I didn’t mind the occasional stalled momentum in plot. This series remains delightful and I can’t wait to see where Marske and her growing cast of co-conspirators take us next.
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Thank you to @netgalley , @tordotcompub
and @freyamarske for this advanced copy in exchange
for an honest review.

A Restless Truth by Freya Marske

Do you like historical sapphics? How about on a boat?
Solving a murder mystery? Oh. and there is

When I saw that a new sapphic fantasy was coming
out, I had to get it and I was thrilled when NetGalley
came through with the ARC. In this brilliant murder
mystery, we follow Maud Blyth (sister of Robin Blyth
from A Marvellous Light - the first of the trilogy) as she
is trying to keep an eye out for Mrs. Navenby as she
travels across the Atlantic Ocean with a key piece of
the Last Contract, but poor Mrs. Navenby is offed in the
first chapter, so now Maud, and her accomplice Violet
Debenham (a magician) must try to solve the murder,
along with others in their crew.

If you like mysteries with a bit of sapphic spice, this
book is for you. If you love to read about the yearning
for love that is forbidden within society and happenings
behind closed doors, this is the book for you. I loved
the characters, even the foul-mouthed Dorian the
parrot. If you like low fantasy, where magic is among
the non-magical folks, then this is also the book for
you. I cannot wait for the third part of this trilogy.

I do want to preface that I have not read A Marvellous
Light (I do own it though) and I was able to follow along
pretty well without having read the first book, so if
you're looking simply for sapphic fantasy, I highly
recommend it. However, I do also want to note that A
Marvellous Light is queer MLM as well. I will be going
back and reading it now that my review has been


#bookstagram #bookish #bookreview #sapphicbooks
#queerbooks #wlw #lgbtqbooks
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Despite its intriguing premise (what if we kissed on a boat while trying to solve a murder mystery and we were both girls????), I found this series continuation a bit too dull to grab my interest. That said, the writing style is light, cheeky, and very readable if you can get yourself in the mood to continue, and I do find the author's characters consistently easy to root for. I think I just have to accept that I dislike historical fantasy set in this particular era! I believe fans of Alix Harrow and Lev Grossman will absolutely eat this series up, and I hope the author continues to delve into the stories of side characters and expand upon this world for her doubtlessly widespread fans.
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One of my most eagerly awaited sequels of all time, and it didn't disappoint! A Restless Truth pops you right into the action, from the very first chapter the game is afoot and the mystery is waiting to be solved. Maude is such a delightful character, I was beyond excited when I realized this sequel would be a sapphic tale with her in the lead. While the story can sometimes feel thin compared to the spicy aspects, I do find this book balanced the romance and plot a bit better than the first did.
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When I read A Marvellous Light last year it abruptly and unwaveringly became the standard for it’s genre. It was MARVELLOUS *wink wink* in every aspect.

When I first heard the series would continue with a sapphic lead I was ecstatic, I couldn’t wait to dive back into the spectacular world of The Last Binding, to get lost again in the mystery and mayhem of it all. BUT although excited, the critic in me wasn’t sure if I’d be as enamored with TRT as I was with TML (only because the severity in which I loved Robin and Edwin was quite the unmatched experience- nothing could compare to that wonderment and overwhelming love that I felt for them).

The expansion of the world in this second installment wasn’t much but evidently far more brilliant and elaborate than I could’ve imagined. Here we follow Maud and new characters that were DELIGHTFUL. I fell more in love than I would’ve thought I would and I immensely enjoyed the mystery, the hilarity of unexpected obstacles as Maud attempts to retrieve parts of The Last Contract and most of all the romance was just as sweet and swoony as the first. 

The only thing that I wasn’t too keen on was the boat setting. To me, it felt like the story was confined to one place in a claustrophobic sense. It felt like it didn’t allow for the story to go it’s full potential and because of that the book did drag for me a little bit. It wasn’t much though and I still deeply enjoyed it in its entirety 

Overall, Marske is absolutely brilliant and incredible and I cannot wait for more in this series!
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There’s a phenomenon whereby sometimes multiple pieces of media will pop up at almost the same moment with almost the same premise. Your Antz and A Bug’s Life. Your The Prestige and The Illusionist. Those two casual sex rom-coms in which Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, confusingly, are not costars. Usually when this happens, you’re just like “Huh.” But if you happen to be a person who really digs historical magicians or animated insects, it’s like Christmas coming twice.

That is how I feel about what I’m calling a spate (it is two) of murder mysteries set on board a ship that also—unfortunately for the murderer—contains a relentlessly determined queer detective. The second one of these will be the second Knives Out movie, whose title I refuse to learn, and the first, of course, is Freya Marske’s A Restless Truth.

Marske’s sophomore novel continues the story begun in A Marvellous Light, which saw Robin Blyth and Edwin Whatsit boning in libraries and uncovering a conspiracy by a bunch of rich jerks to co-opt all the magic in England for their own devices. In the second book, Robin’s sister Maud and a scandalous heiress called Violet bone in ship cabins and carry on hunting for conspiracy McGuffins and the murderers who will stop at nothing to acquire them. Maud came aboard with the intention of seeing the elderly Elizabeth Lazenby safely to England. Instead, Mrs. Lazenby is murdered on the first day out of port, and it’s up to Maud—unmagical and alone—to ensure that the killers don’t get their hands on the magical silver object Mrs Lazenby died to protect. Which Maud has never seen. Which makes securing and protecting it pretty difficult.

I do not subscribe to any birth-order-based psychological theories, but even so I feel that Marske has channeled the muse of younger siblinghood in Maud. Striking out on her own for the first time, Maud is determined not to botch the one true responsibility her brother Robin has ever entrusted her with. She copes with Mrs. Lazenby being murdered by press-ganging a motley group of strangers into an ad hoc, surrogate, murderer-hunting family. I cannot overstate how true to life this is. Younger siblings have a near-supernatural knack for finding people with older-sibling vibes to take care of them while also consenting to be bossed around. (I am both an older and a younger sibling, and therefore nobody can fuss at me for this take, which is factually true.)

Maud’s collection of allies includes the aforementioned Violet, a former burlesque dancer who has just come into money; former magician Lord Hawthorn, who was an absolute asshole in the previous book, but in like a sexy romance hero kind of way; and a journalist called Ross, who has some Intense Eyebrow Interactions with Lord Hawthorn that led me to certain conclusions about book three. By contrast to the first book, which was just Edwin and Robin against the world, A Restless Truth gives us a proper, classic team-up, complete with getting the band together through kidnapping and bribery. It’s Maud’s agenda and Maud’s principles that drive the whole thing—she’s not willing to be dishonest out of fear that she’ll turn to the glittering, callous dishonesty of her parents—and you get the sense that everyone else just sticks around out of morbid curiosity for what Maud’s going to do next.

Where Maud’s an open book, Violet Debenham has taught herself to hold her cards close to the chest. People who know you are people who can hurt you, and she’s much better at putting on her persona of sparkling charm, keeping everyone at a distance by withholding the truth of herself. She can’t quite admit it to herself—at least not at first—but she’s frightened of Maud, who goes through the world like a hurricane being exactly who she is and openly pursuing exactly what she wants. When Maud, very sweetly and forthrightly, propositions her, Violet’s attracted but not prepared to risk herself and her walls for a girl she hardly knows, no matter how pretty she is or how much pornography she’s been reading aloud to her team.

In my personal life I am not a fan of chaos, which frays my nerves and leads to me unknowingly swimming 1.5 laps at the YMCA with my new cell phone in the pocket of my swim dress. In fiction, a spot of chaos can be just the thing to tip characters out of their comfortably accepted daily lives and shake new experiences, feelings, and desires out of them. Maud has never had sex and Violet has never had intimacy, and neither of them felt those things as particular lacks until they are on a boat with murderers and tigers and pornography and nobody can leave. The chaos of the murder investigation has already pushed them both out of their usual social circles and miles out of their comfort zones. Not only are they thrown in with people they wouldn’t have spent time with in the real world, very much including each other, but they’re in a constant state of heightened emotion, murderers are after them pretty frequently, and they do end up with really just an absolute truckload of pornography. Small wonder Violet lets her guard down; small wonder Maud begins to contemplate what it would be like to kiss a girl and like it.

Despite its claustrophobic setting (I love it, I’m obsessed with it, every murder mystery should take place on a boat), A Restless Truth smoothly expands the world Marske established in A Marvellous Light. Marske’s efforts to navigate the perennial challenge of writing historical fiction while white are not vastly more graceful than in the prior book, but we continue to catch tantalizing glimpses of worlds beyond the white upper class our protagonists inhabit. Violet’s magic use is inflected by her time among lower-class theaters in America, and the investigation of the mystery requires our heroes to navigate the thorny class divides of nineteenth-century England, as they try to access areas of the ship that are physically barred to them as well-born women.

Marske retains her knack for conveying a wealth of information about characters and moments through a perfectly evocative detail: Possessed by a ghost, Maud holds herself “like a person who’d tripped on a cobblestone and righted themselves again, but for a few more minutes would be inhabiting the startled vision of themselves sprawled in the gutter.” At another point, Ross’s accent becomes “rougher…as if coming up against Hawthorn’s cut-glass aristocracy had bounced him reactively a few rungs down the ladder.”

Personal preferences aside—I like Violet and Maud better than Robin and Edwin, because I like angst better than fluff, and I like spiky women particularly—A Restless Truth is a tighter, more assured book than its predecessor. Plot points and magical rules from the prior book are concisely and unfussily explained for the forgetful reader (it’s me, I am that reader, because see above wherein everything is chaos and especially the US midterm elections). The emotional and logistical challenges that stand in the way of Maud and Violet’s HEA are sharp and specific, and tightly linked to the unraveling of the central mystery. Insightful, funny, and unexpected, A Restless Truth is a stellar successor that ably continues the mystery begun in A Marvellous Light and leaves the reader eager for the series conclusion.
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8 Compelling Sci-Fi and Fantasy Murder Mysteries to Curl Up With

Murder mysteries carry a unique yet familiar set of tropes and archetypes; cracking the spine on one is like opening a board game of Clue. There are locked rooms stalked by inspectors and suspects, unexpected murder weapons and devious red herrings, missing memories, and sympathetic motives. But while that genre has its beloved classics rooted in contemporary realism, more and more sci-fi and fantasy authors have turned to this formula and framework—to continue the metaphor, like a special-edition Clue with fun new speculative trappings.

In the past five years especially, there has been a rise in SFF murder mysteries, stories set in secondary fantasy worlds or near-future cities or in the cold infinity of space (where, yes, someone can hear you scream and can try to solve what made you scream). Some of these SFF sleuths are detectives and inspectors by trade, conjuring up futuristic versions of Columbo and Sherlock Holmes. Others are amateur investigators (paging Jessica Fletcher and Phryne Fisher) thanks to their lucky proximity to an unreasonable, nearly comical amount of foul play and seemingly random deaths.

These eight engrossing mysteries entangle angels and demons, clones and hyper-insomniacs with some good old-fashioned murder. Whether you want to dip into a brisk whodunnit novella, or curl up for hours unraveling every clue and motive in a thicker volume, we have all the pieces for you to play.

A Restless Truth by Freya Marske

What Freya Marske loves about murder mysteries set on cruise ships is the forced proximity to strangers warring with the temptation to toss everything (clues, suspects, self-styled meddling detectives) overboard. What I love about A Restless Truth, the second installment in her fantasy romance trilogy The Last Binding, is how her protagonist Maud Blyth shares a similar aversion to lying as Knives Out’s would-be murderer Marta—it doesn’t make Maud vomit, but it makes her so uncomfortable that she would rather twist herself in knots to mostly tell the truth… just obscured in key moments, like when she’s trying to outrun some murderous magicians on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic.

Pair Maud with Violet Debenham, an actress and magician who can’t fathom making herself vulnerable enough to be truthful with anyone, and their romance unfolds along the same breathless plot beats as solving a murder that could shift the balance of all the magic in England.
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Being trapped onboard a ship with an unknown murderer is a frightening enough prospect on its own, without adding powerful magic to the mix. Luckily Maud Blyth is just as undaunted in the face of overwhelming odds as her brother Robin. I just reviewed A Marvellous Light, Book 1 in Freya Marske’s The Last Binding trilogy, the other week and went straight from finishing that one to reading the sequel. A Restless Truth, the second book in this fantasy romance series came out at the beginning of November. 

Maud Blyth has been sent by her brother across the Atlantic to find an old woman who possesses part of the magical Last Contract and warn her that she is in danger from a group of powerful magicians who want the Last Contract for their own purposes. However, Maud’s warning fails to prevent Mrs. Navenby from being murdered on the very first day of their voyage back to Britain. The old woman is found dead in her stateroom, and Maud is left trapped aboard the ship with her murderer for the next week and with no idea which of Mrs. Navenby’s belongings conceal the disguised piece of the Contract. All Maud has to work with are the vague drawings and notes from her brother’s visions, which seem to hint at important moments and people aboard the ship. Armed with these predictions and her own innate boldness, Maud sets out to play detective while trying not to attract the attention of either the murderer or the non-magical authorities on board. She gathers allies to her clause, including an enterprising jewel thief, the haughty and powerful Lord Hawthorne, and an actress-turned-heiress named Violet, who delights in causing scandal. Scandal might be just what Maud needs in her (up until now) quiet and sheltered life. But even as Maud gains an enlightening education on pursuing her own desires, she doesn’t lose sight of her larger goal: finding the missing piece of the Contract and keeping it from falling into the wrong hands. 

A Restless Truth plays with a classic plot from the murder mystery genre: a shipboard murder, where the murderer, investigators, and more potential victims are trapped together in an isolated setting for an extended period of time. This premise has been used in books ranging from Agatha Christie’s 1937 classic Death on the Nile to modern thrillers like Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10. As a fan of detective novels (a newly burgeoning genre in the era when this book is set) Maud shows a certain amount of genre savvy. Upon finding Mrs. Navenby’s body, Maud immediately thinks of the mystery novels she’s read and tries to imitate their star detectives by coming up with logical, systematic ways to search for clues. Self-taught and studious, Maud gets all her best education from books and gets a thrill whenever she can apply this knowledge in real life. Eventually, however, she must leave her book-learning behind and learn to trust her instincts once the stakes get higher and she finds herself facing threats of violence and imminent danger.

In addition to being an action-filled murder mystery/thriller, A Restless Truth—like A Marvellous Light—is a nuanced and thoughtful queer romance. Interestingly, while the first book in this series featured an m/m romance, this love story is f/f and centers on Maud Blyth’s queer awakening. Though romantic relationships, especially relationships with women, are new to Maud, this newness isn’t the central conflict. In fact, Maud is ready to dive headfirst into new experiences, but both she and Violet have deep-seated fears that they need to unpack in order to truly open themselves up to each other. As Violet points out several times throughout the book, Maud is particularly good at recognizing the fears and weaknesses of others—a skill which Maud’s manipulative mother had used to hurt others, but which Maud does unthinkingly in her attempt to fully understand the people she cares about. She discovers pretty quickly that Violet—who became an actress to run away from her past—is afraid of being honest and of showing her true self without putting on a performance. Maud, on the other hand, is radically honest, but she fears becoming like her parents, wondering if deep down—despite her deliberate choices to do the opposite of what they would do—she might not actually be a good person. Maud must wrestle with the conflict between refusing to act selfishly while still pursuing what she wants. Maud and Violet’s relationship blossoms quickly over the course of their seven-day voyage, which is mostly spent investigating a murder and trying to outwit their enemies, yet they still make time to explore the most hidden parts of themselves and each other.

A Restless Truth can be read with or without having read A Marvellous Light, though I have been truly enjoying the whole series.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Publishing Group for providing me with a digital ARC of this book!

Previously pitched as a sapphic murder mystery on a boat, I have been eagerly awaiting the follow-up to Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light since I read it earlier this year and absolutely fell in love with this series. I’m a sucker for historical fantasy, and add a sapphic romance at the forefront and a Titanic-esque setting? That sounds right up my alley.

A Restless Truth easily proves itself to be an enticing second installment in the Last Binding series and, in some ways, surpasses expectations by expanding the mystery and worldbuilding in a unique way. Over the course of Maud Blyth’s increasingly dangerous transatlantic journey, we see different ways of conducting magic beyond the standard English cradle methods introduced in the first book.

As always, I adored Marske’s writing style. They manage to create these lush, expansive environments full to the brim with beautiful description and imbibes characters’ internal monologues with excellent and lyrical prose. It perfectly suits her current niche of historical fantasy with the Last Binding series, but I would honestly read anything by her.

I loved A Marvellous Light and enjoyed Robin as a character, but I do think that Maud is a more interesting and engaging protagonist. Perhaps that is because she has a greater sense of agency than Robin throughout the story; both of the Blyth siblings were unceremoniously thrown into the world of magic, but I think that the difference between Maud’s early path and Robin’s is that Maud has a greater sense of the magical world at the start of the story. Maud knows magic is real and is tasked with a clear quest, even if that does go awry in the wake of Miss Navenby’s murder. Comparatively, Robin is thrust into this world without any clear understanding and put under a curse that effectively removes any choice to participate in the unraveling of a grand magical scheme. At many points, Maud internally voices that she feels useless compared to her companions, Violet Debenam and Lord Hawthorn, but the narrative itself disputes that belief.

Violet was an intriguing character and it was fun to watch her perform and even more engaging to see her peel back these superficial elements and bare true parts of herself to Maud. There’s a complexity to her that feels so refreshing for a character that, at first glance, seems to parallel characterizations of Pansy Parkinson in certain fanfiction (if you know, you know).

Quite surprisingly, I ended up enjoying the expanded role of Hawthorn in this book. I found him interesting in A Marvellous Light, but we as the reader don't spend that much time with him and, when we did, it was through the eyes of Robin and Edwin. The dynamic between him, Maud, and Violet Debenam ends up evoking elements of the double act—namely Hawthorn as the straight man. I think that suits his personality well and also helps to make the moments where that dynamic shifts... where Hawthorne breaks from that mold and reveals the glimpses of knowledge and experience that escalate the tension... even more impactful.

I think Maud was the perfect character to help break down the seemingly passive yet thorny walls of Hawthorn. One of my favorite moments in the book comes after a scene in which Hawthorn challenges Maud to a game of chess in the hopes of getting her to stop pursuing the piece of the Last Contract and, despite being on a path to victory, willingly surrenders his king. There's a short, quiet moment when Maud is leaving and Hawthorn reveals his hand: "My sister..." He grimaced. "She was a little like you."

The setting of the R.M.S. Lyric is an integral part of this story, isolating Maud Blyth in the liminal space of a ship surrounded on all sides by the Atlantic Ocean. Maud is effectively left to her own wits and persuasion in order to solve the mystery of Miss Navenby’s murder and recover the second piece of the Last Contract.

Nineteenth and early twentieth-century passenger ships have such an interesting aesthetic and sociocultural nature with the distinction between first-class and third-class passengers in a very physical sense – there is a literal separation built into the design of the ship to prevent a co-mingling of these two groups in areas designed to be pleasurable for the wealthy first-class passengers. Moving between these groups comes at a social risk for first-class passengers… With the watchful eyes of members of English and American high society on board, the Lyric almost feels like a panopticon at certain moments, which is used by and against the characters of A Restless Truth.

The plot in of itself is not as complicated and there is less intrigue, but such is the nature of some series. We learn in the first book the reason why this shadowy group of magicians were targeting Robin and their motivation for doing so, but there are still some gaps in the knowledge around the Last Contract that this fills in for Maud and her group of lovable first-class rogues. The pacing dips a little bit in the middle chunk of the book, but overall it didn't bother me too much.

Now that each side has one piece of the Contract, I’m interested in how Marske will manage to build a compelling and engaging conclusion to this story. Personally, I hope Hawthorn gets the main character treatment in the next book.
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A Restless Truth is, I think, a book which benefited from my having a clearer idea of what this series is aiming to be. That is, I would primarily call this a romance series, with a little plot which links the books together. I didn’t understand that while reading A Marvellous Light, but now I do. As such, I think I enjoyed this one a lot more.

The story picks up not long after the ending of A Marvellous Light, only this time we’re following Maud, who is journeying back from America in the company of one of the people Robin and Edwin have been searching for. Only, things come a little unstuck when the lady winds up murdered.

As I said at the start, knowing more about how the book would go actually helped my enjoyment of it. My main issue in the first book was the lack of balance between the mystery and romance aspects of the plot, along with some handwaving over the worldbuilding. The latter is still there, obviously, but the former has improved twofold: firstly, due to what I expected from the book, and secondly, I genuinely think this one has a better balance between those aspects.

It also helped that, while I did like the cast of the first book, I so much more liked the cast of the second. They really hit every sweet spot, and make me so so excited for book 3 (that is, if I think who the leads are going to be is correct, and I’m reasonably certain of it). I can’t wait to see what happens when these four collide with Robin, Edwin and Adelaide. I predict chaos in the best way possible.

The plot too, I think, was better paced than the previous book—I just remember a large chunk of that where anything mystery-related and therefore, presumably, quite time sensitive, took a backseat and I got bored. There was none of that here, really. Yes, there were scenes which, despite the fact I liked them, I was a little confused how they added to the plot, but overall it was much better in that respect.
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This sequel to A Marvellous Light follows Robin’s sister Maude   Maude is supposed to be accompanying an older woman back to England with an important magical artifact. 
Unfortunately, she is almost immediately murdered shipboard. 
Part murder mystery, part love story, part treasure hunt (as Maude and her nee friends are not sure exactly what the artifact IS) this follow ip novel was a lot of fun. 
I really enjoy the unique magic system set up in this world. It’s hard to find something new, and the origin of magic and how it is performed was very cool.
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