Cover Image: A Restless Truth

A Restless Truth

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A Restless Truth is the sapphic, sea faring sequel to A Marvellous Light— one of my favorite reads last year. Filled with swashbuckling good fun, a twisty mystery and plenty of steam, it is a great companion to the world Marske set up with Edwin and Robin in a magical Victorian England.

I am such a massive fan of Marske’s writing and love her clever, fast paced writing style so was extremely excited to get stuck into A Restless Truth. Just like A Marvellous Light, it combined both a fascinating, delicately complex and original magic system with likeable characters and just enough quick paced plot to keep me interested.

The story follows our two main characters— Maud, sister of Robin and determined problem solved, and Violent, recent heiress and all around bit of a likeable scoundrel. The mystery and danger of the last contract still looms, brought closer by a sort of magical treasure hunt on the close quarters of a White Star Line ship.

Admittedly, I didn’t like it quite as much as it’s predecessor, but there was so much I adored about the story. For one, Marske writes excellent romance. Maud and Violet’s relationship had the perfect mix between spice and emotional depth to make it convincing and enjoyable. Both characters had distinct voices and motivations, and I loved the character arc side of the story the most. I desperately wish that only half the story was set on a boat so we got a better look at their relationship outside of the close quarters of the ship.

Which brings me to the main reason I didn’t enjoy A Restless Truth as much as it’s predecessor— I’m not massively fond of stories set all in the same location. By not having the variety of background to play around with, the plot has to rely a lot of pure character interaction to move it forward. This isn’t necessarily a critique, and Marske plays out the trope very well, but it’s just not to my personal taste. I found myself getting a bit bored at times though I really did enjoy the book overall.

If you’re a fan of historical fantasy, witty dialogue, sapphic romance and a mystery plot line, A Restless Truth will definitely be for you. And also, I’m *extremely* intrigued about who I’m guessing the couple will be in the next book. Fingers crossed!

4/5 stars

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I have been waiting for this book all year! I read A Marvelous Light (Part #1 in The Last Binding Series) back in February and loved it! This is a queer historical fantasy romance set in Edwardian England. Some fans of book 1 may be disappointed that Robin and Edwin don't make much of an appearance here, as the story focusses on Robin's sister Maud and her new acquaintance, Violet Debenham. But never fear, Maud and Violet's chemistry is just as fun.

A Restless Truth is set aboard a White Star ocean liner during a one week voyage across the Atlantic. Maud has been sent to escort Elizabeth Navenby from New York to England, but things begin to go horribly wrong on the very first night. Along the way Maud enlists the help of Violet and Lord Hawthorne, (whose character is expanded from the previous novel in wonderful ways!), to protect one of the three pieces of the Last Contract. Together, they also must discern who onboard among over 1.000 passengers is part of the cabal to take its power for their own.

As with A Marvelous Light, Marske immerses the reader in a lavish period specific setting. The ocean liner provides the "closed room" feel for the mystery and also heightens the tension as the story builds due to the fact that no one can get on or off the boat until it reaches its destination. Nevertheless, the Titanic-esk liner provides room for dinners, balls, games, and even a seance! There are multiple twists that move the story forward, but Marske also takes time for some super sexy spice. (At least 🌶️🌶️🌶️..5 out of 5 for this sheltered girl!)

Even so, there is only so much development that can be done towards the overall arc of the series in isolating Maude from Robin and the other major players in the first installment. By the end this felt frustrating to me.
While I love what Marske does here, I am yearning to get back to the bigger picture and how it all connects to the larger, wonderfully bureaucratic and corrupt world built in the first novel.

I believe Marske plans to introduce a third couple in book three (and many fans are already speculating as to who they might be from the side characters in AML!) but I hope it's not at the expense utilizing the 4 characters we have grown to love in these first 2 books as an ensemble. I so want to see Edwin, Robin, Maud and Violet all working together! But of course, this might very well be the plan all along. . .by keeping them separated here we are that much more primed for what is still left to come in book three!

I am already looking for the title and release date info!

Many thanks to NetGalley and Tor publishing for granting me access to an eARC of this novel in exchange for an independent and fair review.

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This was such a good book! I love the world, the characters, and the mystery. The romance in it was also very real.

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Look, I LOVE a good queer woman pulp mystery novel, but I couldn't bring myself to completely fall for this one. I think this is largely because once again it lands in the Fantasy Romance bucket compared to my proffered form, Romantic Fantasy (the former being relationship focused, the latter being plot focus). From the get-go I enjoyed the both siblings are gay representation (there are tens of us) although Maud as a character began to grate on me after a while. I adored Violet, and enjoyed seeing her relationship with Maud evolve into one of trust and mutual affection (despite its VERY rapid evolution, but hey, that in itself is queer woman core). I know I'm in the minority here, but I did get kind of annoyed whenever Robin or Edwin was name dropped - I very much wanted this to feel like Violet and Maud's book (which it did by and large) but the frequent references began to take me out of it. The pacing was...fine. There was no way around things feeling rushed when the whole story takes place over six days on a boat that can only stretch so large. I think the superseding issues is that my tastes stylistically just don't line up with Marske's tendency towards the gooey and trope-filled.

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For someone who doesn't care for whodunits or cozy mysteries as a general rule, this is the second time in two weeks I've loved one--although it doesn't hurt that this really is, as the previous reviewer says, KNIVES OUT with lesbians on a boat! Also, second books in trilogies often have a lot of heavy lifting to do and I appreciated that A RESTLESS TRUTH managed to pull it off, balancing the immediate murder mystery plot with continuing the overall magical conspiracy arc begun in A MARVELLOUS LIGHT. And the characters were delightful, as was Maud and Violet's romance, which I am looking forward to seeing continue--since we only get the first week of it here--in the next book (along with Hawthorn and Alan's story, of course).

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The entirety of the novel takes place onboard a ship and this time around the romance is sapphic. Marske adds many layers to the Last Contract story here with flashbacks to the original founding of the Forsythia Club, mediums who can be possessed by ghosts, the addition of three more people to Edwin and Robin’s side, and a non-magician at least partially immune to magic.

This was all good fun, but we’re still only hearing secondhand about the marvelous powers discovered and developed by the members of the Forsythia Club. I can’t help but feel the even more fascinating stories would be about those ladies in their heyday rather than our current charming if motley crew.

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This book was a great follow up to A Marvelous Light. The continuation of the overarching story with a new set of characters was fun - and I very much enjoyed that it avoided the pitfalls common to sequels. Maud and Violet were wonderful characters to follow, and the further exploration of the frigid Lord Hawthorne was also welcome. While A Restless Truth was a wildly different sort of mystery than its predecessor, it worked very well, reminiscent of Agatha Christie in its setting and its twists. It was a very fun read and I look forward to the series' next installment.

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Great sequel! I enjoyed learning so much more about this magical world. The new characters were fascinating and getting a deeper dive into Lord Hawthorne's character. I did miss Robin and Edwin though.

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As soon as I heard 'murder mystery on a boat with lesbians,' I requested a netgalley (and also because I adored A Marvellous Light). While Maud and Violet took a little longer to grow on me than Robin and Edwin did in the previous book, they did grow on me. Their arc together was one of the book's biggest strengths, along with some really fun Group Plotting scenes. It was particularly interesting to see another side to Hawthorn that we didn't get in the previous book. Overall, this book was a light, fun read with some good character moments.

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Where to begin! A Marvellous Light was instantly one of my favorite books upon finishing it and when I went to find out more and found out its sequel was going to be about Robin's sister and sapphic? I was so incredibly excited. A Restless Truth already starts on an exciting leg, having left off with Robin and Edwin's unfinished business, and it was a ride all the way through to the end where I was waiting on edge to see how and when and if Maud would make it back to her brother successfully.

The way the characters discussed liminal spaces was something I personally enjoyed since it's one of my favorite words and type of spaces that can exist and I think it worked very well as the setting for this leg of The Last Binding's story.

And I know that something being described as "queer" used to have different connotations, but when Maud said something about a "queer feeling" it had me giggling at the double meaning. I also loved that there was a continual discussion of consent and not just limited to sex.

Even though the stories are about magic and fantasy, the way that Marske also makes the stories about families and the way people do things out of love or spite or a combination of both from their roots.

Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor for making this available in exchange for an honest review!

EDIT: I cannot believe I forgot this in my initial posting, but the parallel of Violet and Maud with Flora and Beth, I really loved that in a bittersweet way. The way that Flora and Beth didn’t have the chance that Violet and Maud might. Also as I’m typing this, there’s even the parallel in their names: Violet and Flora, oh my gosh, I love it.

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The magic was ambiguous and the steamy scenes were not. I really needed those things to be reversed within this only okayish (thought sufficiently convoluted) plot.

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This is nice, but I was thrown by the tone and pacing, which seemed very different from what I remembered from book 1. The tone does match well with the main character-- who was portrayed, from my perspective, as a person with strong ADHD symptoms. One lesbian character and two bisexual characters, with a sweet f/f romance.

I read [book:A Marvellous Light|53217284] 6 months ago and remembered enough to follow. The books should definitely be read in order, but don't necessarily need to be back to back.

eARC from NetGalley.

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The second volume in Freya Marske's "Last Binding" trilogy is even more deliciously fun than its predecessor. Maud Blythe is charged by her brother, Robin, to retrieve an important artifact from New York before a powerful magical cabal can get their hands on it. When the artifact's owner is murdered on the ship back to England, Maude must join forces with a New York showgirl, a grumpy nobleman, and a jewel thief to unmask the murderer and find the missing artifact. While Marske does a great job of setting up the final book in the trilogy, this story stands on its own with a great mystery and a sweet romance.

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This is a flawless sequel — similar pacing and romantic arc to the first book, but with new characters and a brand new setting. We learn a little bit more about the larger mysteries at play— but this book shines with the character development and romantic tension. This book has more laugh out loud humor moments than I the first, but that could be partially because the two leads have so much sass. I can’t wait for the next one; I hope the third book will be for grumpy Lord Hawthorne.

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This book made me so happy! I liked A Marvellous Light, but I found this plot even more compelling, and I loved the cast of characters in this one (plus the chance we got to learn more about some that were in the first book). Maud, Violet, Ross and Hawthorne compelled me to root for them and want them to succeed badly, and the humour in this book had me pausing to giggle at the most unexpected intervals. I loved the noticeable character growth and insight that we got on Hawthorn, and I really really liked that the relationship between Maud and Violet is left on a positive note but is open-ended, because it makes a lot of sense for the storyline and for both of them. I can’t wait for the third book in this series, and finding out who the main characters will be — please let there be more Ross in it, I’m intrigued by the mystery of his reactions to magic and he is amazing!

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Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan/Tor for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This book was such a joy to read! I had high expectations for this second book in the Last Binding trilogy, and it didn't disappoint in the slightest. I loved each and every one of the little main cast of characters. But I especially loved to get more of Lord Hawthorn, and I hope to see him featured even more in the next book!

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This series is spectacular, the magic system is so creative and every single detail is so well thought out. The descriptions, characters, and actions leap right off the page. I can’t wait to read the next book in the trilogy even though I never want it to end and want to read about Maud, Violet, Edwin, and Robin forever!

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this novel. I am rating this book based the stars due to lack of time to leave a full review. #NetGalley #ARestlessTruth

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I received an eArc of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I need to give some context to my next statement: A Marvelous Light was my fifth favorite book I read last year. A Restless Truth is better than its predecessor.

I was initially very apprehensive about Maud as a protagonist, I found her to be a weaker part of the previous book as she felt a bit like Eloise Bridgerton: the plucky young woman character who's there to highlight that things were bad for women in the past. But I've been proven wrong, Maud is an amazing protagonist, she's desperate to prove herself, she's curious without being annoyingly naïve. And don't get me started on her glamourous love interest Violet who's deliciously layered.

The plot is an intricate mystery that I couldn't manage to predict. However the book truly shines in its sexual comedy and (much like it's predecessor) extremely well written sex scenes.

I can't wait for the next book in the series especially if that means we get to see Edwin and Violet interact.

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I enjoyed A Restless Truth, but nowhere near as much as I'd hoped, or expected, to.

All the things that I loved about A Marvellous Light are present in its sequel, except that they feel smaller somehow, less developed or else more subdued. The writing is still great: Marske has a real knack for charming, playful narration, and her storytelling always feels buoyant and lively, leaning into the chaotic-but-fun-hijinks-ness of it all. The way she crafts character and dialogue are especially impressive: her characters think and act and talk like real people, so it's no surprise that when they're all together in a scene, plenty of fun and quippy exchanges ensue.

All of this is to say, a lot of the groundwork underlying Marske's writing in A Restless Truth--the narration, the character work, the dialogue--is solid, just as it was in the novel's predecessor. Where I think this novel let me down, then, is in the bigger-picture stuff, namely the plot and the romance. The plot of A Restless Truth, a whodunnit, has a kind of sputtering quality that made it really hard to be invested in; it felt like the narrative equivalent of trying to start a car and having its engine stall over and over again. I like a story that slowly builds up to a crescendo--like A Marvellous Light's did--whereas whodunnits, by their nature, tend to have a stop-and-start style of storytelling. You investigate clues, but nothing turns up; you chase down leads, but they turn out to be dead-ends; you get closer to figuring out the mystery, but your attempts are thwarted by something or someone. It was too episodic for me, and the fact of the matter is, I just don't like that kind of storytelling all that much.

None of this is helped by the fact that the entire novel takes place over 6 days, and in one singular location, too. These two things only work to make the narrative feel too small, too limited. I usually love stories set in some kind of enclosed space or area--most of A Marvellous Light took place on an estate--but A Restless Truth took it too far. For this reason, its story ends up feeling a bit stagnant, not dynamic enough because everything in it is just stewing in this one small space and in this very short time frame.

This issue with the limited setting and time frame affects the characters too, and, by extension, their romance. I pretty much immediately loved Maud: she's stubborn and a little foolhardy, but she cares so deeply about doing good, and is so earnest and compassionate, trying not to let down the people she cares about, that it's impossible not to be endeared to her. My problem with the character work, then, isn't with Maud, but with Violet, the other main lead of this book, and Maud's love interest. Violet is, like Edwin in A Marvellous Light, emotionally closed off, reticent to reveal any real part of herself to others. And I absolutely love these kinds of characters; the fact that they're closed off means that they have that much more room to grow, so that when they do open up later on in the novel, it feels so much more rewarding to you as a reader. Thing is, we never really get to see Violet open up in A Restless Truth. Like I said, the novel only takes place over 6 days, so there's really only so much character development that can happen without straining plausibility. It would've felt disingenuous if Violet had done a complete 180 over the course of 6 days and become totally open and emotionally trusting, but at the same time the limited time frame of the book puts it in a bind because we barely get to see Violet open up at all. There is a little development, to be sure, but it feels so paltry. Maud goes through such a strong character arc in this book, but Violet is kind of left in the lurch; her character arc is less arc and more...slight curve. By the end of the novel Violet is only beginning to consider opening up, but it's too little too late: the novel is over, and we won't get to read from her POV again.

My problem with Violet's character development, or lack thereof, carries over to her romance with Maud. Because Violet doesn't get to have that strong of an arc throughout the novel, the romance also isn't allowed to grow as much as it could have--or as much as I wanted it to. I mean, I liked the dynamic that Maud and Violet had, but their romance felt incomplete to me. It's not that it was bad, but that it didn't go far enough. And that's really the crux of my issue with the novel as a whole: it develops a lot of things, but it doesn't develop them enough. I was constantly left wanting more: more honesty from these characters, more intimacy, more time.

I hate to keep comparing this book to A Marvellous Light, but I keep doing it because that first installment did so well all the things that A Restless Truth stumbled on. And that's what's disappointing me about A Restless Truth, I think: all the components are there, but the novel as a whole feels like it could've been much better than it ended up being.

Thanks so much to Tor for providing me with an eARC of this via NetGalley!

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