Cover Image: A Restless Truth

A Restless Truth

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Maud, younger sister to Robin, our main character from the last book, is on a voyage to bring an elderly lady who knows about the mystical objects that everyone is after back to England. During the cruise, the old lady is murdered. Maud ends up getting help from Lord Hawthorn (from the previous book), Violet (love interest), and Ross (thief and possible love interest for Lord Hawthorn in next book). While they investigate, Maud finds herself drawn to Violet and begins to discover herself.

The romance between Maud and Violet was sweet and steamy. Maud is attracted to a woman for the first time that she’s aware of and Violet teaches her that such things are possibilities. Yet Violet is hesitant because she doesn’t want to be a phase and Violet is very good at hiding her feelings under a carefree facade.

My biggest problem is Lord Hawthorn. I loved him too much. There is something nefarious going on with his family, and I’m dying to know what. You wouldn’t think that would be a problem but there were times when I was too intrigued by him and impatient to read his book to be swept away with this one. It felt like I was cheating on this book.

The mystery wasn’t that captivating and there felt like a lot of fluff happening.

This review is based on an advanced reader copy provided through Netgalley for an honest review.

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Full of mystery, adventure and romance, A Restless Truth is an extremely fun ride and a great follow up to A Marvellous Light. Coming off how much I loved the previous book, it took me a bit of time to adjust to the new dynamics that A Restless Truth brought, but by the end I absolutely adored this cast of characters. Maud and Violet are a fantastic pair and I loved their chemistry (as a fan of more of a slowburn kind of romance, it took me a bit to come around to their very fast relationship, but I appreciated the evolution of their connection and the ways they grew as characters within it). The confined setting of a ship also made for a very fun spatially-limited whodunnit amidst the high stakes of the broader narrative. Now I just can't wait for book 3 for all of these characters to be reunited and for this story to reach its thrilling conclusion.

*Many thanks to the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

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I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own.

After enjoying Freya Marske’s debut, I was excited to continue the series with A Restless Truth, especially as this was a sapphic book. I enjoyed this overall, even if it didn’t quite measure up to the first book.

The characters are fun and unique, and the best part of the book. Violet in particular steals the show…I love a scandalous lady who puts up walls to hide her true vulnerability, and she met my expectations exactly. Maud is Robin’s sister, having been introduced in book one, and I like how she’s more innocent and spunky, yet she can more than keep up with the more worldly Violet. They play off each other very well, and while I sometimes feel their romance took a backseat to the fantasy/mystery elements (whereas the first book was more explicitly a fantasy ROMANCE), I enjoyed their dynamic overall.

While I still consider the mystery less engaging than the other elements, the overlap with the fantastical made it more interesting this time around. Maud having medium abilities to commune with the ghost of the recently deceased Mrs. Navenby provided a lot of fun, as well as propelling the story forward.

This felt like a slow-burner, taking its time to pick up in the beginning especially. However, the scene is set impeccably, establishing the characters on the cruise ship. I also enjoyed getting a bit more insight into the world building, particularly in terms of the “cultures” of magicians from different countries.

I really enjoyed this second book, and am excited for the third book to come, especially given what is being teased. If you enjoyed the first book, and/or you enjoy books that blend fantasy, queer romance and mystery, I recommend picking this one up!

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All your favorite genre into one and I have not read a fantasy filled with almost all genres in such a long time and I loved how the author really tied in all the genres well and wow read it now yall

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A sparkling, lush, and absolutely marvelous follow-up to one of my favorite books of last year! A Restless Truth effortlessly blends romance, fantasy, mystery, and the historical setting to create something truly magical. Every word is a breathtaking delight, the plot is deeply compelling, and the characters are complex and charming, all of it making for a fantastic middle book in this witty, gorgeous jewel of a trilogy.

Thank you Tordotcom for the advance review copy!

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Freya Marske tenía por delante un reto con A Restless Truth, la segunda parte de A Marvellous Ligth, una de mis novelas favoritas del año pasado. Y he de decir que lo ha superado con creces, haciendo desaparecer el síndrome de la segunda novela con varias herramientas que usa de forma maestra. Cambia los protagonistas pero mantiene algunos personajes secundarios para que no sea todo extraño. Cambia el escenario, pero mantiene ese aire aristocrático de la sociedad que conforma este universo. Cambia el tipo de misterio, para ofrecernos una asesinato en habitación cerrada. Cambia para que todo permanezca reconocible. Es un gran acierto.


La protagonista de la historia es Maud, hermana de Robyn a quien ya conocimos en la primera entrega, que a petición suya se ha desplazado a los Estados Unidos para asegurar una de las piezas del gran contrato sobre el que gira la serie, del que no voy a decir nada más para no caer en el terreno del destripe. Maud tiene una relación estupenda con su hermano, pero no es feliz en su vida porque ha de luchar contra la sociedad para conseguir lo que quiere en su vida. Todo esto saltará por los aires cuando la señora a la que acompañaba en un viaje trasatlántico aparece muerta aparentemente por causas mágicas y debe iniciar una investigación al respecto.

Marske juega mucho con los equilibrios de poder en el desarrollo de la novela, más que con el secreto de quiénes son los enemigos, algo que se desvela relativamente pronto en la trama. Es esta especie de juego caballeresco, en el que se han de mantener las formas ante todo, esta pantomima de la alta sociedad, lo que llena de divertimento la novela. Se busca el escándalo en ocasiones para ocultar otras intenciones, se chismorrea, se habla veladamente de las necesidades económicas de familias venidas a menos… Es un delicioso ejemplo de lo que la fantasy of manners puede llegar a ofrecer.

Las novedades y explicaciones que ofrece la autora en esta ocasión relacionadas con el mundo mágico resultan también muy adecuadas, porque la utilización de anillos para fijar los conjuros que se hace en Estados Unidos pero no en Inglaterra nos hace pensar en la innovación de la que hacen gala las antiguas colonias frente al inmovilismo de las pesadas tradiciones la pérfida Albión.

No puedo dejar de recomendar una novela brillante y ligera, entretenidísima para disfrutar de una fantasía bien hecha.

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A wonderful companion/sequel, A RESTLESS TRUTH is sapphic forced proximity on a ship... what more is there to love? AND ITS REGENCY!

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A Restless Truth was a fun, delightful masterpiece!

I loved everything about this book, the world-building was captivating, the characters were appealing and strong, the mystery and romance had me swiping my Kindle page's way too quickly. Everything worked so well and kept me engaged throughout. An excellent story, and very well told.
Marske, literally has everything rolled into one. And the way she does it is freaking remarkable.
Would recommend to anyone

Tordotcom,
Thank You for your generosity and gifting me a copy of this eARC!

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Ugh ugh ugh I didn’t expect to love this one as much as the first, I always have an issue with character switches like this but I was absolutely obsessed the whole time.

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A DELIGHT. I am in love with the fantastical world that Marske has created, where magic exists as both personal power and cultural marker and a high-stakes mystery animates the action. A Restless Truth is the second in this series, and given how much I loved the opposites-attract country estate romance of A Marvellous Truth, I was nervous that this entry wouldn't stand up. Turns out, a novel about a ragtag group coming together to solve a magical mystery on an Edwardian ship, with a side of sapphic romance, is just as fun as it sounds. Marske has a talent for character development (not always a given in fantasy!), and the people that inhabit the world of her story are complex and believable. Also, they're hot. The way Marske writes relationships will be familiar to readers of fanfic, where she got her start, and if you too have wished for well-written fantasy with a fanfic sensibility (ie propulsive action and generous sex scenes), you will love this series.

Thank you to Tor and NetGalley for the ARC!

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I loved loved loved the first book in this series, and I loved this one just as much! Equally in fact! One of the things that I love about Marske's writing is her dialogue and the sense of feeling we get from the book. Much like the first book it was full of wit and character, and I loved getting to know Violet in this book.

I already really liked the short glimpses we got of Maud in the first book, so I'm very happy that she is now getting her own book! This has to be one of the most amazing sapphic romances I've ever read. It was done so well. The back and forth between Maud and Violet was excellent, again, Marske has such a talent for witty banter. Even the side characters leap off the page, much like they did in the first book.

It reminded me of old murder mysteries that take place in confined spaces. I feel that I will need to reread it because I was reading so fast -- I wanted to know what was going to happen to Maud and Violet! I guess it was a bit Agatha Christie like, and I very much enjoyed that aspect of the book.

It took me a minute to reorient myself and remember how this was related to the first book and what had happened. This picks up the story just after that. I will note that if you were expecting to see the guys or for the guys to play a main part in this book -- they don't. They make a brief cameo and that's it. This isn't their story -- it's Maud's and Violet's.

Also to note, this is just as steamy as the first book and is so deliciously well written.

Overall, this was an absolutely delightful book, and I loved every moment of it.

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"A Restless Truth is the second entry in Freya Marske's beloved, award-winning Last Binding trilogy, the queer historical fantasy series that began with A Marvellous Light.

Magic! Murder! Shipboard romance!

Maud Blyth has always longed for adventure. She expected plenty of it when she volunteered to serve as an old lady's companion on an ocean liner, in order to help her beloved older brother unravel a magical conspiracy that began generations ago.

What she didn't expect was for the old lady in question to turn up dead on the first day of the voyage. Now she has to deal with a dead body, a disrespectful parrot, and the lovely, dangerously outrageous Violet Debenham, who's also returning home to England. Violet is everything that Maud has been trained to distrust yet can't help but desire: a magician, an actress, and a magnet for scandal.

Surrounded by the open sea and a ship full of suspects, Maud and Violet must first drop the masks that they’ve both learned to wear before they can unmask a murderer and somehow get their hands on a magical object worth killing for - without ending up dead in the water themselves."

All I ask is for some proper worldbuilding in this installment. Just some. Please.

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“…you look at the world and decide you can live with it or decide you can’t. And if you can’t, you decide what you’re prepared to do about it.”

Lesbian “Knives Out” on a boat could not be a more perfect description of this sharp, sexy book. A RESTLESS TRUTH is the second in The Last Binding trilogy, a historical fantasy series set in Edwardian England. This book carries over the story started with A MARVELLOUS LIGHT but with a new set of central characters: Maud (Robin’s younger sister) and the heretofore unknown Violet. It’s a murder mystery and a romance, with equal parts intrigue and chemistry, as well as a talking bird, a charmed coat, and a diverse collection of pornography. I loved the setting of a massive passenger ship during a six-day ocean voyage; the constraint of space and time was captivating, and I like how it allowed this story to focus on the new characters. The main pairing is very compelling: Maud, with her fierce stubbornness and desire for knowledge, and Violet, with her many faces protecting her soft, wounded heart. And like the previous book, there’s plenty of intimacy laced with magic. I was thrilled to see more of the Forsythia Club and I can’t wait to get my hands on book three to learn how the battle for the Last Contract will end. Also, I’m predicting Hawthorne and Ross are the two queers central to the final installment; their prickly banter definitely felt like a setup for something more. Thanks to Tordotcom and Macmillan Audio for the review copies! This book is out 11/1.

Content warnings: attempted assault, injury/blood, violence, death, period-typical homophobia/racism

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A Marvellous Light was one of my favorite reads last year; I’ve already reread several times. A Restless Truth definitely lived up to my expectations. However, I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as the first in the series. Robin’s and Edwin’s story is hard to beat, but I think it absolutely succeeded in furthering the plot and answering enough questions while maintaining the mystery enough to be excited for the third.

I did love Maud and Violet as characters. It was a refreshing change of pace almost that it didn’t develop into insta-love. Just two people attracted to and intrigued by one another working against a magical conspiracy. There’s a lot of room for their relationship to grow and for them to grow themselves. I’m eager to see how it unfolds in the third book.

The third book is one of my most anticipated reads next year. If it features who I’m hoping it will feature, I absolutely cannot wait!

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Freya Marske, Author of A Restless Truth—and A Marvellous Light, which preceded this new novel—is one of the best world-builders writing today. The world in these two novels is based on a very familiar Edwardian England, but with a complex upper crust of magicians, unrecognized by ordinary humans, and whose struggles for power over one another and the world at large create crises of enormous scale.

Yes, there are plenty of books out there that layer magic onto the world as we know it—or knew it, or may know it in the future. But Marske's novels have a richness of character and depth of structure that are nearly impossible to match.

In A Marvellous Light, we followed the struggle of non-magic foreseer Robin Blythe (because an ability to sometimes glimpse the future is not the same as owning magic) and weakly magical Edwin Courcey, who face a conspiracy that could lead to a magitotalitarian (so pleased to be able to coin that term) England. Like the Edwardian England of our history books, Marske's Edwardian England is splintered by brutal hierarchies of wealth and gender. And magicians with greater powers take pleasure in tormenting both non-magic people and magicians of weaker powers.

As Robin and Edwin struggle through this uneven battle they also fall in love, which makes economic and gender divisions dangerous in ways beyond the usual—and sets them up for abuse by those whose magic is particularly powerful.

In A Restless Truth, we don't see Robin and Edwin, but they are key background figures because Robin's sister Maud, who like Robin has no magic, has agreed to try to protect and bring to England Elizabeth, an elderly, female, ex-pat magician who holds one of three crucial magical objects. Almost as soon as Robin and Elizabeth board the White Star Line's R.M.S. Lyric to return to England, Elizabeth is killed and Robin is left to puzzle out who killed her and whether any of the objects the killer stole was a transmogrified form of the magical object Elizabeth held. Maud needs to locate and build alliances with magical individuals who have been half-glimpsed by brother Robin's foreseeing.

The novel takes place aboard ship over the six-day journey to England. Add into the mix non-magical individuals who have strange powers of their own, a fraudulent medium, and any number of magical villains wanting the power which the lost object could provide. At the same time, romantic tensions build between Maud and Violet Debenham, a "ruined" upper-crust magician who fled the restrictive structures of her family to build a very different life working in a Bowery theater.

Phew! It's complicated. There are many, many characters. And one really should read A Marvellous Light before taking on A Restless Truth. Nonetheless, A Restless Truth repays readers generously for the demands it will make on their time and mental energy. Like many readers, I enjoyed A Marvellous Light more than A Restless Truth—but that's like saying I prefer a four-star meal to a three-star one. Both are well above the usual.

My advice: find and read A Marvellous Light. Fall in love with Robin and Edwin as they fall in love with one another. Learn how the English system of cradled (as in cat's cradle) magic works. Then read A Restless Truth. Fall in Love with Maude and Violet as they fall in love (maybe?) with each other and fight against the restrictions they both face as women. Learn about the American system of ring magic. Then sit back and wait anxiously for the next volume in this fabulous series.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.

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One of my absolute favorite books I read last year was the first book in The Last Binding series -- A Marvellous Light. It took everything that I adore -- historical romance, mysteries, meaningful gay relationships, magic, and steamy sex scenes -- and pushed it all together in an absolutely fantastic mashup. When A Restless Truth showed up on Netgalley, I daren't hope that I would be given access to an ARC. I loved A Marvellous Light too much, obviously, to be impartial to the sequel. Well, I was wrong -- Tordotcom rather lovingly bestowed me access to an e-arc of one of my most anticipated books of the year. I think I squealed out loud when I got the approval email, actually.

So, drumroll -- did A Restless Truth stand up to A Marvellous Light in my eyes?

Yes, and a tiny bit of no.

Yes...mostly, I suppose?

The entire book takes place on a massive ship heading across the Atlantic back to England. It's possible that this hampered the book in my eyes -- perhaps I missed the mad dash hurry travel scenes to get some other neatly magical location? Or was it the characters themselves that just didn't stand up to Robin and Edwin? (This is what I'm leaning towards.) I love them both so much, that it would be very hard for anyone else to match them, honestly. While I did like Maud, and Violet, they just weren't Robin and Edwin. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. It might also be the ending of the book that just didn't shine quite as much as A Marvellous Light's. (I won't spoil anything but repeating something happening to the characters three times is a bit much, in my eyes.) Whatever the reason may be -- I'm still not entirely sure -- I still did enjoy A Restless Truth very much.

More about the characters, now. Violet Debenham is an absolute marvel of a character -- she is a magnificent scandal and she does not care who notices. She spends the majority of the book pretending to be behind a version of herself that she's created in order to hide who she really is. She's a lot of fun, but she does ring false for a lot of the book -- on purpose. Maud Blythe is Robin's sister who is determined with all her might to be a good person, in spite of her parents being absolutely awful people. Lord Hawthorne, I'm hoping will be one of the leads in the next book. He's so very stoic, noble, and straight-backed I really want to see someone just totally tear him apart emotionally.

The mystery at the center of the plot was fantastic, though I do wish there had been a little more foreshadowing as to who was actually involved in the theft and murder. It feels like the twist comes out of absolutely nowhere, unfortunately.

Overall, I did enjoy A Restless Truth, just not quite as much as I loved A Marvellous Light.

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It is SPICY. But not excessively spicy. You could cut out all the sexy times and it would still be a very enjoyable book, with lots of characters development and additional information. I do feel like there isn't as much world building in this one as the 1st book in the series, even considering you don't need quite as much introduction to the world anymore. I feel like we could've had some more developments on that front. And while I don't think it's strictly necessary to have read the first one, I do feel like you'd be confused by some of it if you hadn't. Once it gets rolling it's quite fast paced and exciting.

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4.5 stars

I have been eagerly awaiting this book since I finished book 1 in February. So, so good. Is there romance in this book? Sure. But it is not a romance. There is so much more going on - magic, adventure, mystery. Truly, this book has it all, and a fast pace to keep you on your toes.

Maud is a great character - driven to be the opposite of her parents - devoted to her brother and striving to be good and truthful, even while traveling under an assumed name. The challenges of solving a murder and a magical mystery while confined to a ship for a week are amplified by how delightful literally or the characters are. Hawthorn’s ability to be stoic and impressive even while being secretly amused, the many faces of Violet the actress, the continued disdain Ross holds for the aristocracy while still being game to help — even the baddies are interestingly drawn. All around a fun and exciting read. Can’t wait for the next installment!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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I don’t know why, but I had a hard time with A Restless Truth. I think something about the writing style here didn’t mesh with me this time around and made this a bit of a chore to get through. The pacing was incredibly slow at times as well, despite the novel taking place in less than a week, and that didn’t help me at all.

It was a funny thing that I did very much enjoy Maud and Violet’s perspective despite the points above. Their voices were very distinct from each other and I loved the presentation of Violet as a more experienced person than Maud–that isn’t something I’ve seen in historical romances before and I thought it was pretty refreshing!

The romance element here also really worked for me. I had such a good time reading about Maud and Violet and how their relationship started and progressed and what it meant for them at the end of their journey. It was pretty sweet and I never felt like it was rushed. I was also here for all of the spicy scenes!

The plot was… interesting? I think I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn’t for the pace. I felt like the main conflict and investigation here took such a long time to come together and it was difficult to keep following things along when other, not as important, scenes kept getting in the way. Not to say that it was entirely bad since I did enjoy when the pieces started coming together. I also liked how this all added to the world-building and overall series arc. It’ll be interesting to see how the next book picks up some of these threads and runs with them!

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Is there a word for nostalgia over something you’ve never personally experienced? Because I think I have that about modes of travel that either aren’t around anymore (ocean liner travel) or that don’t really exist in my part of the world (passenger trains). At one point, the protagonist of Freya Marske’s A Restless Truth, Maud Blyth, describes the feeling of traveling between two distant points as liminal. It feels like you’re in a place that isn’t quite real, because you’re literally neither here nor there. On a train ride across the country or a long flight or on a boat headed for a distant city, with no one who knows you, you can be whoever you’d like to be. Maud feels that, too. As she steams by ocean liner from New York, Maud seizes the opportunity to not only become a detective but also one-half of a pair of soulmates.

Maud is in deep trouble at the outset of A Restless Truth. The woman she was supposed to protect has been murdered and the object she and her deceased protectee, Mrs. Navenby, has been stolen. (Readers of the first book in the series, A Marvellous Light, will know that the object is part of a magical MacGuffin that could change everything.) If Maud can’t find the object and work out who killed Mrs. Navenby, all of the magicians of England run the risk of having their magic stolen. At first, Maud has to work alone, with only her skill at manipulating people to aid her investigation. (Maud learned how to manipulate people by watching her mother, a master of the art, but she has vowed to only use her powers for good.)

All this makes A Restless Truth sound like a nail-biting, grim, reading experience but trust me when I tell you that this book is funnier and sweeter than the setup might lead you to expect. One of the things that changes the tone of the novel from supernatural thriller to supernatural-romance-comedy-thriller is the introduction of Violet Debenham. Maud can’t take her eyes off Violet from the first time they met over a communal dining table. No one else can, either, but that’s because Violet is a fantastically outrageous woman who refuses to put up with fussy society. I laughed more than once at Violet’s arch observations and devil-may-care antics. The other ingredient that makes this book such a fun read is Lord Hawthorn. Hawthorn appeared briefly in A Marvellous Light but gets a lot more stage time in this outing. Here we learn more about why he is so ferocious about not getting involved in anything. It takes a lot of effort on Maud’s part to convince him to help with her quest. Between Violet’s acting skills and Hawthorn’s privilege (and the assistance of a light-fingered socialist/journalist), Maud ends up with a formidable little force to take on her enemies.

A Restless Truth is the kind of book that you can really only describe as having everything. There are chases, romance, fights, foul-mouthed parrots, high jinks, double-crosses, hilarity, eroticism, Edwardian atmosphere, and emotional honesty. This book was a delight to read and, I think, I enjoyed it even more than the series opener. I’m very eager to see what comes next in this series.

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