Cover Image: A Restless Truth

A Restless Truth

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Member Reviews

I have been teased with how good this book is since long before I got a chance to read it. Too long. So when I started it and didn’t click with it immediately, I was a little worried it would be yet another highly anticipated disappointment. Or my unreliable reading mood. But it won me over eventually, and I ended up having as much of a blast as with A Marvellous Light.

Robin’s sister, Maud, heads off to New York to help with the Last Contract. And not long into the return journey, Mrs. Navenby (who owns a piece of it) gets murdered. With the help of Violet Debenham, a magician-actress and scandal magnet, the curmudgeonly Lord Hawthorn, and Alan Ross, a writer of pornography, she sets off to find the culprit – and save the Contract.

This was just as much fun as the first book. Romance, magic, murder, what else does one need to have a good time? I liked Maud and Violet just as much as Robin and Edwin and the ship setting perhaps even better. At points, I wasn’t sure how would the author manage to drag out the mystery plot over the whole book, and a couple times I was afraid that it’ll become burdened by prolonged misunderstanding-based complications (thanks fuck they were addressed quickly), but in the end it worked out okay. And even though sex scenes are spicy and prolonged and I’m ace-spec, it again bothered me less than I thought it would. I’d chalk that up to good writing and character development.

Most of all, I liked that for a change, neither of the ladies was as obsessed with propriety and manners as is usually the case with historical fiction set in Britain (aka most of it). Violet straight up doesn’t care and wants to shock her relatives and even seemingly proper and inexperienced Maud has a rebellious streak.

If there’s one thing I was mildly annoyed by is that as with the previous book, there was a disconnect with how long the book felt, and over how few days did the plot actually take place. The characters did remark on it (“I’ve only known you for three days” etc) but I still felt like some things were moving a little too fast.

Recommended. Looking forward to the sequel very much!

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Maud and Violet are both strong and likable characters in their own ways. Maud’s sexual awakening in the midst of all the turmoil was well-written, and I like their romance, despite it not being as satisfyingly head-over-heels as the romance in book 1. That’s OK because it makes much more sense for these characters—they are quite young, in the midst of a crazy murderous plot, and Violet especially is running from a lot of trauma that has left her guarding her heart. It was interesting how Marske held off on letting even the reader know much about what Violet is running away from until the very end of the book; I’m intrigued to see how that information will come to light in the next installment.

Now I’m going to complain about a few things: 1. The pacing was sometimes laggy and uneven, especially at the start. 2. The ship setting was underutilized to the point that it basically was the same as them being stuck on an island or in a castle or something. Cruise ships are really creepy in both tropey and non-tropey ways and I think that could have been used to imbue a more atmospheric and creepy effect. As it was, the setting just made things feel repetitive and confined at times. 3. Dorian the African Grey parrot was criminally underutilized as a character and could have been written much more convincingly—African Greys are some of the most mercurial and intelligent parrots! I didn’t much like how he has just moved around like a piece of furniture most of the time.

All in all, it didn’t blow me away as much as the first book but it was a very solid sequel and I am very excited for book 3.

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I have to admit that I have not read the first book in the series yet, but I didn't seem to be too confused (that I know of). The plot was pretty straightforward, and Maud was a fun and adventurous character that you could cheer for. Maud didn't back down from a challenge, and her strong personality worked to move the narrative along. If you are looking for a fun adventure with a bit of romance, then A Restless Truth is the book for you. I give A Restless Truth 4/5 stars.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of A Restless Truth by Freya Marske. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for this ARC.

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‘A Restless Truth’ is just as lush and romantic as the first book but in its own unique way. Most of the plot takes place on a boat, giving it a bit more of a Agatha Christie feel than the previous installment. Our main characters Maud and Violet have such a satisfying romance, all of our side characters are interesting and entertaining. I loved getting a bit more of the world and an expansion of the magic system. A very satisfying installment in this series!

Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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The characters in this book were so great. Hawthorn and Violet both turned out to be a real highlight of the book for me. Violet and Maud together are just delightful. I loved them as individuals and as a couple.

I loved the strong feminist undertone of the book. Between Maud, Violet, Mrs. Navenby and the rest of the Forsythia Club, this book is populated by women who are rule breakers. They all deal with being excluded in some way due to their sex. They are amazing, strong, smart women and I would love to be able to read more about all of them.

One of the things I loved most about A Marvellous Light was the unique and intriguing magic system that was tied so closely to nature. The nature connection definitely continues here. (Hawthorn, Violet, Forsythia?) It’s fleshed out in ART a little more. We learn some specifics about how it works including different approaches like using rings and runes, and the ways different cultures and previous generations performed it, which I loved. There’s a scene where Maud communicates silently to Hawthorn in “cradlespeak” and it one of my favorite moments. Cradling spells in front of another magician but not putting magic into it is basically like using sign language as a way to converse silently and I thought it was genius.

The book ended up going places I never expected and the ride was very eventful. With everything that happens and the highly amusing characters, I think it’d make a terrific movie. Overall I enjoyed it and look forward to the next (final?) installment.

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LOVED this follow up to the Marvellous Light. Freya knows how to capture adventure and romance. Full review to come soon but very excited to get to book #3!

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Happy Pub Day to A Restless Truth from one of A Marvellous Light's biggest fans! There is so much to love about this book first and foremost, it's sapphic and it slaps!! It has magic, mystery and murder, it has great characters and that witty smart writing we've come to expect from Freya Marske. It's hard to say too much without giving anything away but I love love loved this book and I know it will be a sequel that does NOT disappoint fans.

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Oh, I loved this!

It's a compelling mystery aboard a ship, with twists and turns aplenty. It's an erotic romance between a music-hall magician who's the lady equivalent of a rake and a fine and stubborn young heroine who is very excited to absolutely defy every propriety she's ever had in her life. It's a comedy and a drama and it's got a lot of heart to it.

I loved how the characters grew and changed throughout the story, and really appreciated the magic system this world set up. And I especially loved how despite being a magical adventure on the high seas, the narrative absolutely refused to look away from the frustration of women (in the Victorian times specifically, but obviously in general) in a world that always wants them to be lesser. It was just really well done. Violet and Maud were both dream protagonists in every way. I did find the pacing kind of back and forth, mostly due to the (very well written) sex scenes, which tended to have a different, more dreamy pace from the rest of the narrative so they could interrupt the flow now and then, but that was my only quibble and it was a very minor one.

It was a LOT of fun.

I'm also very much looking forward to Hawthorne and Ross's story, which I'm going to guess is next!

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4.5 stars

A ship traveling from America to England. A deadly game of find-that-magical-item. A fantastic sapphic romance. Oh and also? More of a truly engaging magical world. I love this series!

Characters: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★
Plot: ★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★★★★

Maud Blyth is on a mission. She's helping her brother, Robin, with his quest to save the magical community of Great Britain from some truly deadly stakes that we discovered in A Marvellous Light, the first book in the series. She's on her way back to Britain via steamship.

It's not Maud's fault that her charge, an elderly woman holding a secret magical artifact, dies on the first day of their voyage. And it's not Maud's fault that said elderly lady never actually told her what item in her possession was the all-important magical artifact.

Oof. Things aren't going to be so easy, after all.

Good thing Maud Blyth is the best person to have in your corner when you're trapped and in need of assistance.

Enter Violet Debenham from stage right, the beautiful and enigmatic heiress-to-be with a reputation she keeps in purposeful tatters and way too much personality and charm for any one room. She's a gravitational pull, and Maud finds herself helpless to resist—and discovering that even she could, she may not want to escape Violet's embrace.

And from stage left, the broody and constantly irritated Lord Hawthorne enters the scene as well with his anger, lack of magical ability, and tortured past. He's a reluctant player in Maud's play of Christie-like whodunit, but he's present and more helpful than nothing so Maud takes him into her stride too.

With magicians, murder, and mayhem... We're in for a bumpy voyage. All aboard!!

I am so pleased to report that A Restless Truth proved to be just as delightful as its first book, A Marvellous Light.

I was initially bummed to find out that this book abandoned the characters from the first book (Robin and Edwin), but quickly found myself getting over it in the absolutely perfect character in Maud. Maud was everything. I loved her. (Don't get me wrong, I found Violet to be a ton of fun too in different ways, but MAUD!)

There's just something about this quaint historical fantasy series that pushes all of my buttons. It's intriguing, yet not pulse-pounding. It's quaint and quiet, yet grips me. It has a dense and interesting magic structure and yet at no point do I feel lost or overburdened by complexity. It's "just right," and continues to be.

My only quibble with this installment was its limited setting... I am not a fan of boat-centered content. Or any other limited-setting story that traps our characters into a very small geographic range. Outside of certain mystery books with extreme action, this type of limited setting leads to me as the reader feeling trapped and pent-up in the mental reading space. It's hard for the plot to feel like it's moving along when our characters can only go from A to B... and back... and repeat. I wish this story had taken place somewhere else and given Maud, Violet, and the crew more room to breathe and explore. But, that in mind, I still greatly enjoyed this read.

Eagerly awaiting book three!!

Many thanks to Tordotcom for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

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After A Marvellous Light ended up being one of my favorite books of 2021, there was absolutely zero doubt that A Restless Truth was going to be one of my most anticipated releases of 2022. Freya Marske has created such a wonderful, fascinating world in this series that is full of beautiful prose, atmospheric description that makes your heart ache for this secret magical version of England, and a colorful cast of characters that you love and hate in equal measure.

The description of A Restless Truth as "Knives Out on a boat" is an apt one, though I might have opted for a "Death on the Nile" label myself. The long and short of it: murder mystery and romance and all of the related drama on a ship. Maud Blyth (masquerading as "Maud Cutler") is on a mission on behalf of her brother, Robin, to speak to Elizabeth Navenby, second member of the all-female Forsythia Club who rediscovered the mystical and dangerous Last Contract. Maud needs to protect Mrs. Navenby and her piece of the Last Contract from those who would use it for evil in England - problem is, Mrs. Navenby is murdered almost immediately after they set sail. Maud is left with the notes of her brother's visions of the future, a particularly vulgar parrot, and the knowledge that the murderer is trapped somewhere on the ship with them. She turns to Violet Debenham, scandalous actress and magician from Robin's visions, for help - both with the murder, and with figuring out exactly what she wants out of her own life.

I don't want to go into too much detail about the story itself, because the twists and turns of A Restless Truth are such a delight to discover throughout the story. It gives us a delightful new view into magic and this world that we didn't get to see in the first book of the series, and it does the almost impossible task of making Lord Hawthorn into a... likable character? He's pompous and hilariously obnoxious in every scene, balancing well against Maud's outright earnestness and tenacity. She was sent on this mission for a reason, and she refuses to fail, and that shines through in every scene that she is in. Violet, meanwhile, is a fascinating combination of secrets and high walls and queenly beauty whose practicality makes her a perfect match (in every sense of the word) for Maud.
Even the glimpses of Robin and Edwin that we get through Maud's memories and thoughts are lovely - scenes of warmth and caring that depict a couple comfortable in their relationship.

Arguably the only tiny weakness I found in A Restless Truth was in the setting. The middle of the book seemed to drag just in that it was missing that beautiful atmospheric setting that was so utterly present in A Marvellous Light, trapped on a ship in the middle of the ocean as everyone was. But overall this is such a perfect follow up to A Marvellous Light and I cannot wait for the last book in the trilogy next year!

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I really love these books. This one started off a little slow for me, but when it got going it was entertaining. I liked the characters - Hawthorne especially. I have a thing for disdainful aristocrats. I loved Maude and Victoria's relationship and banter. I can't wait to see what the third book brings.

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Myth: 4.5/5

I was beyond delighted that the second book in this series was to feature Maud. She’s a fantastic character with a determination and desire to experience the world around her. Paired with Violet, a woman who draws the eye, and puts on a spectacular show, this cross Atlantic ship ride is sure to be an adventure. Maud and Violet’s chemistry leaps off the page, with wry humor and plenty of wit.

Maud gets to set her sights on the second piece of the Last Contract as the series continues. A murder, a mystery and being trapped on an ocean liner for the cruise from America back to England.

Magic: 4.5/5

Building on the reveals in A Marvelous Light, Maud doesn’t want to disappoint her brother when she finally gets her chance to contribute. Filled with the belief in what’s right, but no magic of her own, Maud gets her own set of likely and unlikely allies to help her find the second piece of the puzzle.

Overall: 4.5/5

I loved book two, it really built on the world revealed in book one. I loved Maud, so it was delightful to see her rally her own troops, sometimes out of sheer stubbornness. It was wonderful to see her experience the world, get knocked down and find a way to push herself through. I can’t wait to see what happens in the trilogy conclusion.

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A really solid sequel to a book I enjoyed very much! I was a little disappointed that this book wasn't about Adelaide, who I really enjoyed in the first one, but I grew to love Maud. Her journey both across the ocean and the discovery of her sexuality was very charming. I wondering if being on the boat the whole time would feel claustrophobic, but I didn't find that to be the case.

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Me and A Restless Truth by Freya Marske did not get along. After an enchanting frolic through book one in the series, my expectations were high, and they came crashing down quickly. Our original characters, Robin and Edwin, set the standard, and I found that this adventure could not live up to the first magical foray into their world.

Maud Blyth has been sent to America to bring a piece of the Last Contract safely back to her brother, Robin, in Britain. Unfortunately for Maud, that involves traveling with an eccentric, elderly woman across the sea under an assumed name. However, Maud’s attempts to evade notice fail, and the portion of the Last Contract goes missing on the ship. Maud is desperate to locate the piece, but without any magic of her own, she will need to recruit allies on board to aid in her mission before the future of magical society falls into the wrong hands.

The first thing that stood out to me in book two was the choice of POV. Admittedly, I thought that Robin’s sister, Maud Blyth, was an odd choice especially since her role in book one was incredibly limited. The most obvious choice for book two’s POV was Adelaide Morrissey, the plucky assistant who plays an important role at the end of Robin and Edwin’s adventure. Marske also highlighted Adelaide’s unique predicament as a brilliant woman of color in British magical society who was relegated to the side, so I looked forward to seeing her shake that stuffy situation up. Instead, we follow Robin’s high-society sister who feels disconnected from the larger story. The reason for Maud going on this adventure was shaky, and I never bought into her role in this particular adventure.

The characters and romance in this book fell short of its predecessor. Edwin and Robin were carefully crafted, and each character was developed thoughtfully and revealed parts of themselves that played into the burgeoning relationship in meaningful ways. In comparison, Maud’s relationship that develops on board the ship feels forced and shallow. This is really unfortunate because Maud is trying to discover who she is and it would have been beautiful to witness her transformation more deeply. The relationship itself also suffers because Maud and her love interest are incredibly flat. There is nothing interesting about them, and the deeper parts that Marske hints at are never explored. I found their interactions frustrating and it was made even worse due to the confines of the ship.

Without a strong plot or characters, the setting sank everything further into the ocean. I lament that the entirety of this story took place on a ship. The story got stale very quickly, following a neat little formula. Days on the boat were relegated to finding answers to the mystery at hand, and the nights were reserved for planning meetings and sex. I was also bothered that Maud could create so much chaos but run back to her cabin and be “safe” as if she was untouchable in her room. There was no sense of urgency or danger because somehow an ordinary room was always there to stop the big bads and protect its characters, which is odd especially after the story starts with a murder in a private cabin. It all seemed very silly, and I look back on my adventure in A Marvellous Light even more fondly in comparison.

Everything in A Restless Truth dampened my mood. I was put off by the POV choice, the lackluster romance, and to top it all off I was stuck on a boat. This book was major filler, and I am desperate for Robin and Edwin to make their triumphant return in book three.

Rating: A Restless Truth - 5.0/10

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An enjoyable F/F romance. If you enjoyed A Marvellous Light, you'll likely enjoy this one too. Lots of hijinks, which makes for an overall entertaining read. I did find that the pacing fell a little flat for me, which was a complaint I also had with the previous book. There are bursts of activity, where the plot moves forward very quickly, followed by scenes that reduce that momentum to a near-screeching stop with a meandering sort of slowness. This is probably because although I liked the majority of the characters, I didn't quite love them enough to enjoy reading about them doing things not directly relevant to the plot. I will, however, be picking up the next book because I'm interested to see how everything wraps up. Also, I'm pretty sure I know who the characters will be, and they were great fun in this book.

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A Restless Truth by Freya Marske
Rating: 4 stars
Steam: 2 chilis
Pub Date: 11/1

I read and loved A Marvellous Light last year and I was thrilled to get an early copy of book two in The Last Binding trilogy, A Restless Truth. This story follows Maud, Robin’s sister, as she travels across the ocean to try to uncover some of the magical secrets that could affect all of the magicians in Britain. She’s prepared for anything…except meeting and falling for the beautiful, and magical, Violet Debenham. Together, with a few magicians they meet along the way, they must solve a murder and recover some stolen magical artifacts, all while trying to stay alive.

I loved this adult, magical fantasy that takes place aboard a steamship in the 1820s. It had a real locked-room style to it that could easily translate to the big screen. It’s full of strong female characters, girl power vibes, steamy sapphic romance, murder, mystery, and some quirky side characters.

There is a LOT of information packed into these books and some of it is a little hard to follow. I tend to read quickly and for this series I really had to slow down and pay attention because I would miss something if I didn’t. There’s no question that this book is exceptionally well written, but the pacing is slow at times and the story dragged in a few parts. Overall, I loved the mystery and the suspense, and the numerous twists kept me guessing until the very end!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor Publishing for the advanced copy! A Restless Truth is out on 11/1.

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'A Restless Truth' is a magical mystery, a madcap adventure at sea, a coming of age novel, a sensual romance, and above all things, a really fun read.

Following 'A Marvellous Light', this is the second novel in Freya Marske's Last Binding trilogy, which features a richly imagined world of magic that coexists secretly alongside early twentieth century British society and mirrors its struggles with class disparities, power imbalances, secrets and intrigues. On the hunt for an object that's critical to maintain the sanctity of power in the magical world, Maud Blyth must uphold a false identity, recruit and lead a motley crew of allies, and face dangers for which she, an unmagical person, is necessarily unprepared. All this while distracted by an attraction to fellow passenger and magician Violet Debenham, with whom she awakens her sexuality and builds an intimacy inside and outside the bedroom. These characters are entirely well conceived. They have flaws and baggage that stem organically from their backstories and which enrich their love story with highly emotional stakes and complications.

'A Restless Truth' is eventful and well-written, and it's a consistent pleasure to discover the new applications and implications Marske has found for her novel system of magic. This book is a delight and leaves the reader eager for the series conclusion, 'A Power Unbound,' due out November 2023.

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This sequel was excellent in all the best ways: expands the magical world, continues the high stakes drama and danger of the mission, and it pretty darn entertaining. Maud is a naïve yet also an in-real-life chaos demon seeking to help her brother find the second piece of the Contract, and Violet is an experienced magician seeking to scandalize herself as much as possible as she comes into a surprise inheritance, and Lord Hawthorn returns, very put-upon and rolling his eyes as he has to help both of them out of the trouble they constantly find themselves in, on a boat, with no escape in sight until they reach land!

Peak drama, hijinks, and spicy times ensue.

The stakes couldn't be higher as the story continues. Who knows what will happen in the 3rd book, but I have a feeling it going to be spicier, more of the magical world (I would love to see Edwin wield insane amounts of magic, as hinted in one of Robin's visions in the first book), and hopefully more of Edwin and Robin, who I love dearly and missed greatly in this book.

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I need the third book immediately okay? A Restless Truth tells the story of Maud, Robin's sister and she is so precious! While it's easy to get caught up in her innocence and her questioning representation (we love the queerness of this one), what I love the most about Maud is her heart. How she desperately wants to help Robin even though she knows she may be out of her depth. There's just something about her combination of goodness and cleverness. I was instantly charmed.

So combine my love of Maud and this setting and I was smitten. The mystery of whodunnit is combined with this almost locked room mystery - because who is jumping off a ship to escape?? The mystery felt not only like it had a sense of heft - not only about murder but also about the last contract - but there was also continuous actions and new discoveries. Not to mention that there's a charming crew of detectives which apart make no sense, but together find a sort of rhythm.

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I really liked this book! I did like the plot of A Marvellous Light more, but these characters were amazing and I loved seeing the magic through a new lense.

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