Member Reviews

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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I loved A Marvellous Light so much, and I've been waiting for the continuation of this story for a year. I was a bit worried that the protagonists changed for this second installment. I don't usually like when that happens in a series, but I loved these characters so much that it didn't bother me at all.

This book was so different from the first one, but also felt incredibly familiar at the same time. The writing was still wonderful and did a beautiful job of bringing both the settings and characters to life. Marske excelled at creating witty, compelling dialogue and vivid descriptions that managed to make a rather claustrophobic setting feel grand. The pace was quick throughout, and I enjoyed following the adventures of these characters and getting to know them as the story unfolded.

The plot was a pretty standard whodunnit murder mystery crossed with a quest to find a magical item. The best part of it... EVERYTHING HAPPENS ON A BOAT! I just really loved this setting, and it worked so well to have the characters try to work out the identities of their enemies while being trapped in extremely close quarters with them. It increased the tension in all the right ways and created some unique opportunities for fun mayhem. The story also had plenty of twists and turns and added quite a bit to the lore introduced in the first book.

The characters were my favorite thing about the book. I liked the little bit we saw of Maud in the first book, and it was nice to learn more about her in this one. She quickly found herself in the middle of a mess soon after the ship set sail and began trying to get on top of the situation by recruiting allies to help her track down a murderer. She started out her sea voyage the picture of the perfect lady. She even had difficulty bringing herself to curse. Her journey was one of self-discovery (and some might say This brings me to Violet, one of her first allies and the catalyst for much of Maud's growth. She was probably the opposite of Maud in almost every way. She left Britain in scandal before establishing herself as a performer in New York and was widely known as a strumpet. She also has serious trust issues from being burned in previous relationships. The relationship that blooms between the two women was full of passion and drama, and the steamy scenes added to the character development of them both. I enjoyed getting to see Violet help Maud explore, understand, and accept her queerness.

The rest of the characters were all great, as well, and Maud gathered herself quite the crew of accomplices. My favorite, however, was Lord Hawthorn, who also appeared briefly in the first book. His mysterious grumpy bisexual self stole the show of so many scenes, even though he was almost always in the background compared to the other characters. I'm now so curious about him. Who hurt him? Does he end up happy? I NEED him to end up happy... preferably with the hot jewel thief introduced in this book. They had some smoldering chemistry and great banter that I'd love to see explored further. Luckily, the author confirmed on Twitter that Lord Hawthorn is getting star billing in the last book, which has me very excited. Now I just have to wait until the next book is finished...

If you enjoy sapphic romance, magic, historical fantasy, and/or murder mysteries, this is a book you don't want to miss. It blew all my expectations out of the water, and Marske is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars and will definitely be taking this voyage again in the future because it was such a fun read.

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I’ve been on a bad streak with Romance Fantasy novels lately, so knowing that A Restless Truth doesn’t follow the same main pairing A Marvelous Light did have me a little apprehensive to start. Turns, it’s not the genre, I was just reading bad books. What a joyous book to read, with fun characters, snappy dialogue, and a plot that nicely integrates both the romance and the larger worldbuilding.

One of the best parts of this book is Marske’s prose and dialogue. The word choice and dialogue structure really brings the reader into the 19th-century (or something around that era) British nobility setting, with all its romanticized charm. The writing really helps facilitate the character development and overarching traits, from Lord Hawthorn’s dry humor and general done-ness to Maud’s excited young suffragette going off into the world for the first time. That being said, while I suppose it’s historically accurate, I can’t take the word ‘frig’ seriously and it makes otherwise sexy sex scenes just funny instead. Please let these characters say fuck.

It turns out, in romance fantasy, when you don’t make one of two main characters functionally useless for an entire book, it does wonders for both plot progression and my interest/investment in said character. As mentioned, I was hesitant that we weren’t getting more Robin and Edwin, but between Maud’s persistent excitement and Violet’s more subdued charms, I quickly fell in love with this new pairing. They just bounce off each other so well, and I loved that even though Maud was very much out of her element for many events in this book, she was never scared to charge in headfirst to tackle the next big issue. Of course, Lord Hawthorn was my standout character for this book. Any scene he was in just stole the show. Poor man just wanted a calm boat cruise across the Atlantic but played piggy bank and get-out-of-jail-free card for an old acquaintance’s rambunctious sister instead.

I’ll admit it’s been long enough since reading A Marvelous Light that the only thing I really remember was the kinky magic sex scene (we get some of those here too), and very little of what happened plot-wise or the names of characters involved. Fortunately, I was able to pick up enough context clues along the way that I never felt myself lacking so much information I couldn’t enjoy the story. The action moves quite quickly in this one and I loved how integrated the romance parts were with the ‘move the plot forward’ parts. I did think part of the middle dragged a big, with Violet’s Tragic Backstory^TM getting replayed one too many times.

Overall, I rate this book a 4/5. While I thought a small part of the middle dragged, I was charmed by the characters and the writing. The setup and the cliffhanger ending are teasing an intense book three and I can’t wait to see these characters again.

Review will go live on my blog on 14 October '22

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This was so much fun to read. While A Marvellous Light, the first book in the series, felt slow paced (in a good way), this installment moved along at a much more exciting pace. I loved the ways that the opening of this book mirrored the opening of the first book. And I adored the entire cast of characters in this one. The setting was totally my cup of tea, because I love mysteries where all the participants are trapped together. And I continue to find this author's writing completely enthralling.
As with the first book, the building connection between the MCs is done to perfection. The first book was a slooooow burn and this one has the spark between the MCs flaring much sooner, but I loved how the romance unfolded. The sex scenes were great, gorgeously written and playful in a way that really appealed to me. There's also one of my favorite sex scene elements: one MC challenging the other MC to do some sort of task while they are being pleasured. I dunno why but I'm TRASH for this. It's so hot and fun.
The only aspect that let me down just a bit was that this one ends like the first book, with a lot of threads still unfinished. Obviously there's another book to come, but I think because I went into this one with the mindset that it was a mystery, and mysteries tend to end with everything wrapped up with a bow, I felt a little more frustrated that things weren't wrapped up a bit more by the end. And while I think the ending was perfect for these MCs because of who they are and where they are in life, I did wish for a bit more oomph or closure at the end for them.
But really that is a small complaint, because I very highly recommend this series and this book was all I'd hoped for and more. The next installment is for sure one of my most anticipated books!

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A Marvellous Light was one of my absolute favorite books that I read last year, and I think A Restless Truth will also manage to top my 2022 list. This was just as warm as delightful as its predecessor and I loved all of it. I was a tiny bit worried going in that I wouldn't fall into it as much, because I was so ENAMORED with Robin and Edwin This proved me wrong almost immediately, following Maud and Violet was just as fun and engaging.

When I read A Marvellous Light, I remember being surprised at how graphic the romance was and somehow it managed to catch me off guard here, too, so I figure a heads up is in order for readers who aren't into explicit scenes quite as much. It's fantasy and adventure but it's also very much a romance!

I loved the characterization and I loved getting to know Maud. I think the biggest surprise was how Hawthorn of all people won me over in this book. He is so funny and I am obsessed with him. The development was such a treat to read! I am truly on my knees begging for the next book to be Hawthorn's. I am DESPERATE.

Overall, a phenomenal follow-up to a phenomenal debut. I am unbelievably excited to see where the next installment goes!

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I love Freya Marske; the first book in this trilogy A Marvelous Light I love so very much. It is truly one of my favorite fiction stories. I fell in love with the characters Robin and Edwin, and I tried to prepare to love these new characters that book two follows; Robins's younger sister Maud and her new partner (in crime!). I really did try, but the magic wasn't there for me. I wish to have as many books as the author can write of the original two characters, as I recommend that book to countless people and suppliers, but this one wasn't it. I understood their character's evolution and I thought the plot was very good, so really I think it was just I couldn't love it through the letdown of connection I felt for book one.

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I’m not saying this was a bad book. There was moments of absolute joy. I think it’s just hard as a second book because I can only help but compare it to the first one. A marvelous light was my favorite book last year. So the expectations were just so high for this one. I did not love Maud in the first book and had apprehensions about reading an entire story from her perspective. In the end I did actually find she was a pretty fun character. It was interesting to see her flaws as well as her strengths. I would have to say the setting of this book was probably not my favorite. And the romance felt entirely too quick. At one point Violet says they’ve only known each other for three days in already Maud was trying to define the relationship.

Rep: bisexual MC, sapphic romance

Thank you Tor for an ARC of this book!

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Sexy, silly and super gay. I loved this all the way through. Crimes on a boat with ladies who likes ladies ;) What more could I possibly want?

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I think I enjoyed this one even more than the first book. I fell in love with these characters. What an adventure. This is a continuation of the story started in the first book. It follows Robin's sister Maud on her mission. This book held my attention right from the beginning. A magical, murder mystery on a boat. I was captivated. I know that not everyone likes graphic steamy scenes in their books. This does contain a few, just like the first book did. The story is incredible. I can't wait for the series to continue so I can find out what happens next!

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

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I really really tried to like this one. I only got 12% in before I finally had to give up. Which makes me so sad because I loved A Marvellous Light. I had some issues with the tone but I feel like I could have worked through that if it wasn't for the truly unnecessary amount of commentary on how people look. That's my main gripe with it and it just made me feel gross. Every time Maud meets somebody we get a physical description such as " he had sleek hair and overly large teeth" or "he was in desperate need of a portion more chin". Which is completely unnecessary and rude?? She's also supposed to be investigating a murder and being stealthy and she is the most obvious human being I have ever seen in my entire life. If you're trying to be tricky don't straight up tell one of the workers to let you into a locked room. Hopefully others will have more success with it than I did

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enjoyed this second book in the series. I thought the setting on a ship across the Atlantic was richly described. I found myself thinking about the setting even when I wasn't reading the book. I enjoy this author's take on magic and how spells are done. Sometimes I got confused when they delved deep into spells and magical history, but I enjoyed the "murder mystery" of it. Will certainly read a third book if that is in the future!

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A deliciously fun and sexy mystery, filled with magic and murder! I really enjoyed this follow-up to Marske’s A MARVELLOUS LIGHT and think she is a really fresh voice in fantasy!

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I loved this SO much. This had one of the best sapphic relationships I've ever read. There was angst, there was pining, there was angry sex. It wasn't all just sweet and cozy because lesbians. There was so much more to it than that. The sea setting was also really fun and I loved all of the antics our main characters got up to. Even if you didn't love the first book (like me) I'd say give this one a shot. I requested this ARC because I even read the first one because I saw two girls on the cover and then when I didn't love the first book I didn't even want to read this but I had to because I was given an early copy and I'm so glad I did. I don't know this was just so cozy and fun and steamy and I loved it.

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A Restless Truth is truly, as promised, a lesbian Knives Out on a boat. From the get-go, I got the impression of a magical Agatha Christie novel crossed with a sapphic rendition of the film adaptation of Clue. There's camp, there's scandal, and there's murder.

You follow Maud Blyth, Robin's little sister from A Marvellous Light, as she attempts to assist her brother in returning one of the Forsythia club ladies to England, so that she might aid their cause in protecting the freewill of all the magicians of England. When the lady in question meets an untimely end and her valuables in question go missing (any of which that could be her part of the Last Contract), it is up to Maud alone to catch the murderer and take back the artifacts in question.

We fell in love with Maud in A Marvellous Light and she truly shines in A Restless Truth. She has a totally endearing combination of fervor for justice and well-intentioned naivete that has you rooting for her all the way through. Violet Debenham on the other hand, is the polar opposite of naivete and also the only reason you think any of Maud's plans might succeed.

This was a fantastic, action-packed, magical mystery romp on a pleasure liner and was possibly my favorite of the two books in Marske's magic-cradling world so far.

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In a Restless Truth, the second book in Freya Marske's The Last Binding Trilogy, Maud Blythe must undertake a transatlantic voyage to retrieve the second part of the last contract from America. On the journey however, a woman is murdered and the contract piece lost, and Maud must solve the case with the help of the surly Lord Hawthorn, a many hatted reporter, and a sexy English gentlewoman turned new York thespian. More intriguing and just as magical and steamy, Marske enchants in this follow-up to 2021's A Marvelous Light
A Restless Truth is everything I could want from a sequel. The book deftly dodges the sophomore slump. Rather than feeling like it is all set up for a thrilling conclusion, A Restless Truth pays off on a lot of foreshadowing from book one, rather than holding onto it to build additional intrigue. It rewards the reader by introducing the mysterious vision of a woman from A Marvelous Light, as Violet [last name], the sexy bisexual gentlewoman turned thespian, and by revealing more of the deep seated plot by the English magicians to find the Last Contract. Lord Hawthorn, who had appeared for a scant few pages in A Marvelous light returns as a begrudging ally with a secret soft spot (and I very much suspect he will be one of the leads in book three).
Plus, this book is sexy. Maud Blythe goes from "wait women can sleep together" to "Violet do whatever you want to me" in the span of three days. Characters use their salacious reputation to their advantage. There is a dramatic reading of pornography. I would almost go so far as to say it's erotic, as the plot of the book, and the titular Restless Truth, can't really be disentangled from the sex.
I think this book is better than the first, which lost a lot of steam to having to explain the entire world concept. Since readers already know how the magic works, A Restless Truth is Able to focus on intrigue and character depth more than A Marvelous Light was able to. I heartily recommend it to anyone who read the first book and is wondering if the second book is worth it, as well as fans of Olivia Waite's Feminine Pursuits series and Helene Wecker's The Golem and the Jinni series.

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Such an enjoyable sequel to Marvellous Light! It has romance, murder and scandal. What more could you want?! Can’t wait for the next book.

Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review

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I read and very much enjoyed "A Marvellous Light" earlier in the year; like many I was curious to see how Marske would make Robin Blyth's pert and nosy little sister the romantic heroine of its sequel, "A Restless Truth". Maud more than rises to the occasion here; while it took a bit for her to grow on me I did wind up liking her stubborn ferocity quite a bit. Maud is an active, meddling, quick-witted young woman, and her slow amassing of allies and enemies is engaging. Violet, her two-faced foil and love interest, likewise took me a bit to warm up to, but once again by the end of the book I was ride or die. Those looking for a Robin/Edwin dynamic will not find it here, as both women are largely extroverted, but Maud and Violet have a similar "opposites forced to work together" vibe to the series' original couple that I found very enjoyable. The mystery is fun, the reveals are well-paced, and the characters that will be the romantic leads of the third book (I assume) are well set-up (I already ship it).

Cozy, fun, and beautifully written, very much recommended. If you liked the first book, you'll like this one too.

Thank you so much to Netgalley for a chance to read this ARC!

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Returning to the magical Edwardian setting of A Marvellous Light, we find Robin Blyth’s younger sister Maud in first class on a steamliner as a lady’s companion, traveling from New York to England. Their journey has barely begun though, when her sponsor, Mrs. Elizabeth Navenby is murdered. Suddenly, Maud finds herself in a position of sorting out murder on top of following Robin’s visions.

A Restless Truth has a slower set-up than A Marvellous Light. As we have largely new character, we slowly learn their desires and motivations, all while we are faced with a new mystery. Maud has been appropriately sheltered as a baronet’s daughter, so meeting actress and magician Violet Debenham, who is always looking for her next scandal, is both exciting and alluring. There’s a flare to Violet and a brewing passion to Maud that I found utterly appealing as a pairing; they aren’t precisely opposites, and while I’m not sure Marske did quite enough to convince me they would get together, but once they crashed into one another, their passion was fun to watch. It’s also delectably steamy, which I think is rare in a sapphic fantasy.

I strongly suggest re-reading book one first, if you have difficulty retaining details from one book to the next. I didn’t reread, and spent a bit of time trying to remember what characters had done previously. There is a self-contained romance and self-contained mystery, but this is clearly also the second book of a fantasy trilogy. The greater storyline arc continues into A Restless Truth. Even with a slightly different cast, our protagonists have the screws tightened on them, with the stakes increasing.

A Restless Truth didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but that might have been hard, as A Marvellous Light was a favorite of mine this year, and I eagerly anticipated this release. That said, it’s an incredibly strong book full of liminal spaces, magic, passion, and dramatic flare. There are brilliant moments, quiet moments, and sensational moments.

Thank you to @tordotcompub and @netgalley for this eARC for review. A Restless Truth and its gorgeous cover come out 11/1/22.

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