Member Reviews

I loved this follow up to A Marvellous Light that follows Robin's sister Maud in her search for the second piece of the Contract on a White Star Line ship after the woman guarding it is murdered. Along with a scandalous heiress, Lord Hawthorn, and a thief, she'll have to find the stolen silver item without attracting the attention of murderous magicians onboard who are after the same thing. It took me longer to get into than the first book, but considering it starts off with a bang and a literal murder that might have more to do with me being in a bit of a reading slump the past few months than the book itself. And once I got into the mystery I was fully engaged in watching Maud, Violet, and Hawthorn solve it. I also appreciated the prominent secondary role Hawthorn played in this novel since he's really growing on me. I think / hope the next book might follow Hawthorn and Ross which I would absolutely love. There was some serious tension between the two, so here's hoping!

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Thank you so much, NetGalley, Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tordotcom, for the chance to read this book in exchange of an honest review.

Maud Blyth longed for adventures and she expected them when she decided to be and old lady's companion on a ocean liner, in order to help her beloved brother fighting against a magical conspiracy. Her work was apparently simple: accompany Elizabeth Navenby and her piece of the Last Contract safe and sound to Edwin and Robin, but when the woman is killed on their first day of voyage and some of her possessions are stolen, Maud has to deal with a dead body, to track an unknown piece of the Last Contract, a rude parrot and a murderer on the loose. Fortunately she has Robin's foresight as help, a notebook filled with hints and visions that leads her to the outrageous Violet, the rude Hawthorn and the thief Alan Ross. With their help, Maud is ready to look for clues, avenge Elizabeth and protect her brother. In a ship full of suspects, with the help of a magicians, an ex magician, a journalist and thief, Maud has to do everything in their power to get the piece of the Last Contract back and protect herself and her loved ones.

A restless truth is the brilliant sequel of the Last Binding trilogy, started with the amazing A marvellous light. An historical queer fantasy series and, if in the first book the reader was following Robin and Edwin, A restless truth sees the brave and stubborn Maud as main character, helped by the confident and fascinating Violet. Brilliantly queer, set on an ocean liner filled with suspects, magicians and new original magic, like with rings and embroidery, fake and real mediums, queer love, intense slow burn and a funny and thrilling investigation, A restless truth is the worthy sequel of A marvellous light, one of the best book I've read last year.
Maud is a wonderful main character and I loved her bravery and stubborness, her eagerness to learn and discover, her passion and drive, determined to help Robin and Edwin, falling in love and lust with Violet, creating a team made of a thief and a reluctant ex magicians (someone the reader knows from the previous book, but now there's the chance to know him better and to love him more).
Between animals running on the ship, romance, new and old allies, magic and kidnapping, murderers and stories, A restless truth adds pieces to the Last Contract's story, introducing and shedding light on powerful female magicians, queer love and sapphic stories, friendships and bonds.

Each character, from Maud to Violet, Hawthorn, Alan, Elizabeth herself, is complex, intricate and so skillfully written. The reader has the chance to know them or know them better in Maud and Hawthorn's cases, between moneys and heritages, murderers and magic, investigations and truths. It was a pleasure seeing Robin and Edwin through Maud's eyes, their bond and love, their determination in doing the right thing and Maud's stubborness in helping Robin, in a way to repay him from his kindness, thinking of their parents and childhood.
It was also steamy and funny following Maud in accepting her desires and passions, in learning things with Violet and opening her heart, slowly getting to know her and getting behind her armor.

I loved everything about this book and I can't wait to know what will happen next.

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I really loved the first book in this series, A MARVELLOUS LIGHT, and as soon as I heard the premise of A RESTLESS TRUTH I could not wait to get my hands on it. I mean, sapphics solving a murder on a boat? Yes please! I enjoyed both Maud and Violet and being in each of their POVs, and the secondary characters were great. As someone who reads a lot of historical romance but not a lot of fantasy, Marske combines the two extremely well and I never struggled to understand what was happening. This definitely ends with more HFN vibes than HEA, but that worked for me, and I'm hoping it means we get to see more about how Maud and Violet's relationship develops in future books.

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

A Restless Truth by Freya Marske is an adult fantasy adventure that would make the perfect vacation read! The story revolves around Maud, who volunteers to be an elderly woman's companion on a historical cruise ship. But on the first day of the voyage, the woman is found dead. Along with new allies like Violet, a magician and actress, Maud has to find the murderer. Can the pair solve the case before the murderer comes for them?

Here is a delightful excerpt from Chapter 1:

"Elizabeth Navenby was known for three things: needlework, talking to the dead, and an ill temper at the best of times.
These were not the best of times. Seasickness had taken rough shears to the edges of that temper. And being subjected to well-meaning jabber about the stateroom’s furnishings, and how the handkerchief-waving crowds lining the New York docks as the Lyric pulled away looked exactly like a flock of doves—didn’t she agree?—had hardly helped.
So Elizabeth had ordered the talkative Miss Blyth, who had truly disgusting amounts of energy for a girl her age, off to explore the ship.
“Finally,” said Elizabeth to the empty interior of the cabin. “I could do with some quiet.”"

Overall, A Restless Truth is an adult fantasy that blends magic, history, mystery, and features LGBT characters. One highlight of this book is the interesting premise. I loved the idea of a shipboard mystery featuring magic. I don't think I've read any other books that blend so many genres. I did take off 1 star, because I felt there were too many characters, and I'm not a fan of books with large casts. Also, I tried to make sense of it, but the mystery just confused me. If you're intrigued by the excerpt above, or if you're a fan of historical fantasy in general, I recommend that you check out this book when it comes out in November!

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This book was so good, if not better than the first one! I loved where the story was headed and I love these characters so much! Highly recommend this series!!

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Review:
Magic, a murder mystery, and sapphic romance? Here we go! Maud Blyth has always wanted to go on an adventure, and following the events of the previous book she now knows magic exists and she also wants to repay her brother for everything he’s done for her, so she volunteers to serve as an old lady’s companion on an ocean diner to search for a magical artifact... that might have gotten said old lady killed. Along the way she meets the beautiful but scandalous Violet Debenham who is also someone who delights in adventure and mischief. Violet is a magician and an actress, and she might be the person Maud has found herself falling for. Another person on the ship is Lord Hawthorn, a rude but very scandalous ex to Maud’s brother’s current partner. Maud will need all the help she can to figure out who the killer is on this ship and how to retrieve back the magical artifact. With romance blooming, a killer on the loose, and complications, Maud has her work cut out for her. This one sadly did not connect or work for me as much as the first book did. I did enjoy Maude and I do adore sapphic romance with murder mystery? sounds amazing, sadly it just fell through a bit for my expectations and how everything played out. The story got boring at some parts and definitely slowed down, and the steamy romance scenes just weren’t as steamy as I had expected considering the first book. Also Mauve and Violent’s relationship and romance just didn’t feel as strong as I had hoped. Overall, this was an okay read, it was an interesting second book in the trilogy and I am definitely looking forward to where the final book goes next and how it wraps up the series. I thought it was cute we got to see little tidbits and name drops of Edwin and Robin from the first book too.

*Thanks Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tordotcom for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review*

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This book was phenomenal! I loved Maud as a protagonist, so much so that I think I liked A Restless Truth more than A Marvellous Light. The storytelling in this one was excellent, taking such an interesting, windy approach at world-building and inadvertently making me like a character that I strongly disliked in the previous book. There was more narrative-building through new, fascinating characters, all while Maud both strutted and stumbled through the adventure of her dreams, on a quest to prove herself and help her brother the way her brother has always helped her. I loved the begrudging assembly of her gang of helpers, her sparkling charm, endless curiosity, and stark self-awareness while she attempts to solve a mystery while evading those who oppose her on the limited terrain of a cruise. It was so fun, and featured quite a steamy lesbian romance the likes of which would make anyone blush. The lighthearted hilarity and sexy moments were interwoven in more serious and dark themes, making for emotional whiplash along with constant intrigue. I loved this book, and I'm excited for (what I'm assuming will be) the final book in this trilogy.

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I was already intrigued to how Marske would follow up A Marvellous Light, but when I saw the pitch of this was “Knives Out on a steam liner with lesbians” I might’ve punched the request button on NetGalley; Tor was kind enough to give me it. Honestly, even if you don’t know anything about the first book, you can dive into this pretty easy; the important parts of the last book are rehashed pretty quickly. This is, honestly, first and foremost an Edwardian fantasy closed room murder mystery and a hell of a slow burn lesbian romance. You get a bisexual rake (Violet) and the sweet ingenue (Maud) learning how to trust each other and falling for each other and at the same time solve the murder mystery they’ve become embroiled in. And dear Christ, the sex here is genuinely amazing and honestly uses the magic to get a bit into kink, which I was hoping for in the last book. Pick this up, it’s already in my top five for the year.

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Maud is off on her own journey helping her brother find and safely retrieve the next piece of the last contract.

This was so fun a good murder mystery while stuck on a boat. This book is so beautifully written. Both Maud and Violet were given so much depth to their characters I was able to justify all of their actions through the journey. The banter and angst really had me hanging by the edge of my seat waiting for what would happen between the two.

The first and last third of the book has so much momentum that I struggled to put the book down at all. However I did find the middle dragged a little, I honestly can’t wait to see what happens in the epic conclusion to this trilogy !

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Simply delightful! A murder, a scandal and great romance! A thoroughly enjoyable sequel to Marvellous Light, with characters of great wit and verve.

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This was fantastic. I might have even liked it more than the first one. I absolutely cannot wait for the third book now. I hope it's about who I think it's going to be about, and we also see lots of Maud and Violet (and Edwin and Robin).

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I did like "A Marvellous Light" slightly better but not by much. I loved the mix of fantasy, mystetry, and romance, just like with the previous book, and also like the previous book, the characters are a major highlight. I would not have minded never seeing Hawthorne again after the first book, however, I'm glad that wasn't the case because I quite enjoyed seeing more of him in this one and seeing a different side of his character as well. Now I know that he is more than just a grumpy, brooding, cynical man (he still is all of that of course but not quite as rough around the edges once given the chance). Of course I loved seeing more of Maud and reading about her exploring who she is and growing a whole new sense of confidence with the help of Violet. It wasn't a lot but every time Maud mentioned Robin or Edwin, I felt a bit of a thrill and I do hope that we will see more of them in the future but obviously, Maud and Violet were the main focus of this story. I loved watching their relationship progress and how they left things off at the end left me wanting more and there is still a lot of room for their dynamic to develop and I look forward to seeing how that unfolds.

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It's sometimes odd to come to a sequel without the characters you grew to love in the first book, but Marske crafts her new heroines so that you love them quite instantly. (Though you still miss Robin and Edwin).
Filled with nods to "Titanic" if you, like me, watched it a million times as a teen, that will make you smile.
The pacing was a bit slower than the first book, and at times I wondered at the character's ability to just "take a break" or ask the bad guys to wait until tomorrow, but I'm wondering if that's a bit that I missing from not reading a lot of historical mysteries?
Still fun, and I will be finishing out the series when the third book finally arrives.

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I am going to keep this review as spoiler-free as humanly possible, because truly one of the best things about A Restless Truth was how it unfolded an absolutely edge-of-your-seat plot that had me alternately gasping and holding my breath through entire chapters.

But if you don't like *anything* at all spoiled, here's my short take: A Restless Truthmaintains the gorgeous prose and deft character work of A Marvellous Light, while extending its overarching mystery and deepening the world-building of the magic system, all while creating something entirely new for Maud and Violet that felt like it was their own, and not just a shadow of the first book. It's a story that has something for nearly everyone (hijinks, mystery, romance, sex, feelings, banter, humor, atmosphere, prose for DAYS), yet manages to pull together a coherent whole. This will easily make my top books of 2022.

Ok. Full review. No major spoilers for plot, some information about tone, feelings, romantic arc, etc.

I do think it's worth saying a word about my expectations coming into this book, because expectations can be a funny thing. As is clear from my first review and blog post, I loved A Marvellous Light a whole lot. But when I started hearing things about the second book - essentially that it was a low-angst hijinks-y "Knives Out On A Boat" romp - I will admit I had my hackles up. Because while I firmly believe that books within a series can and should switch up tone and heat level as appropriate for the story, and without wanting to ascribe value to certain tones/heat levels over others... I did have feelings about having to haul around another stone for our cultural edifice of angsty, sexy, tortured mlm vs. cute, emotionally-defanged, gals-being-pals wlw.

And honestly, this book smashed my expectations with a one-two punch. Because not only were the rompy, Knives Out elements of this book SO well-executed that I'd essentially made up my mind around 30% in that I would be fine with nothing but those, but then Freya Marske also brought the heat, a dash of emotional angst, and what I can only describe as some grown-ass feelings and internal conflict. And proceeded to balance them throughout the rest of the book in a manner I can only liken, rather tritely given the subject matter, to magic.

Our two heroines here are Violet and Maud. Maud is Robin's sister, whom we met in book one, where quite frankly she didn't do much for me. Things started out slowly for her here with me as well, but she grew into a fascinating character. Her primary external motivations are a quest for a [redacted object], and to prove her worth and helpfulness to her beloved older brother. Internally, she reacts to having been raised by horrible manipulative parents with a stubborn adherence to never telling a lie. Her arc is, on further consideration, a knightly one - a quest for a holy object, a devotion to brotherhood, a strict moral adherence to truth. Which is a theme I will confess I might have picked up right away on if she was a 40-year-old man on a horse, but "knight's honor" is something I didn't see immediately in a naive 20-year-old girl. It was fascinating to read exactly how that characterization sat her shoulders, to watch how others around her (and I) read her morals as naiveté and her quest as frivolous meddling until we got further inside her head. I love when a book has the guts to present a character as one thing, and lets them grow into something else, building on an understanding of human tendencies to make judgements and willingness to learn.

And opposite her, we have Violet Debenham, for whom I immediately was and remain ready to die. She's a young woman who escaped her English family to be an actress in New York City, who wields the art of illusion both as an acting job and a magical skill. Set up against Maud's stubborn devotion to the truth, Violet understands the power of artifice, especially for a woman in a misogynstic society. This is, in a lot of ways, my thematic catnip: explorations of people who fight back against societal perceptions of their "flaws" by turning those flaws into weapons. Violet is the more experienced of the two women - in terms of magic, life experience, and knowledge of sex. But she has a kind of softness underneath her shell that contrasts beautifully with the steely core inside Maud's apparent innocence, which the two women into very believable and often fiery contact and conflict.

The rest of what I have to say is going to remain a bit impressionistic, since I don't want to spoil the fun. There's a great cast of characters here, whose antics are kept grounded by the bone-dry sarcasm of a very put-upon Lord Hawthorn, who is going to absolutely kill it as the hero of the next book (I'm assuming. He almost has to be). There's a LOT going on plot-wise, but the author balances it all so well: within the first couple chapters, I had met a dozen new characters who I had no trouble keeping straight, and had an entire ocean liner mapped out so clearly I could follow all their comings and goings (these are two things I struggle MIGHTILY with. This book made me want to hire Freya Marske to help me remember names and follow spatial directions).

To those of you coming here from A Marvellous Light, A Restless Truth does an even better job of working the magic system into the moral universe of the story. Magic gets further enmeshed in questions of gender and power (and even though its only hinted at, imperialism) in ways that I want to scream about/write a dissertation on, but I CAN'T BECAUSE IT'S ALSO ALL SO SUSPENSEFUL AND EXCITING.

And I loved how glimpses of Edwin and Robin's life were woven in through the story, primarily in how Maud thinks about them both as family: it was such a gentle and loving way to check in on them (without having to do that awkward "trot out the previous couples" gesture we sometimes see in romance series). I get a bit choked up just thinking about it? How their relationship is so well-worn now that it just sinks into the way others think about their own impressions of home and family.

The prose is, unsurprisingly, stunning. It is at once gorgeously etherial and intensely grounded and carnal. It's a bit ironic, because I at least attempt to make something of a brand for myself around explaining what I like about prose, and I simply CANNOT UNDERSTAND how the richness of this prose does not get tiring or overwhelming for me as a reader, but it never does. And seeing that prose in service of open-door sex scenes between two women was an absolute pleasure. The words took the characters so deep into their own BODIES, I don't really know how to describe it.

Anyway, I really did love this book immensely. Right up through the ending, which offers not only a very satisfying "part 2 of 3" conclusion to the mystery, but also gives our heroines a gorgeous HFN that respects the reality of their age, their experiences, and the time they've known each other. It also contains one of the most generous instances of allowing guarded characters to keep some secrets as they grow into love that ... honestly it made me tear up. I will be thinking about it for ages, until this book comes out, and I can talk about it with everyone I know.

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I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this through my bookstore job which was delightful because I could go straight from finishing A Marvellous Light into reading the sequel! I think I might have had even more fun reading this than the first book. Maud is such an interesting character and I adored meeting Violet and getting to spend more time with Lord Hawthorne. As a queer woman it's really a struggle sometimes to find some truly steamy WLW romance and this absolutely delivered in spades. The plot was mysterious and engaging and left me very anxiously anticipating the conclusion to this trilogy and how this whole adventure is going to wrap up.

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Book two in the series follows the adventures of a secondary character from the first book. A pleasant, engaging, 'what happens next?' read, including a somewhat graphic romance subplot between two women, that never gets too dark. It's nicely set up to bring both halves of the story together in book three, which I look forward to.

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We're back in my favorite magical world! Which is our world in early 1900s England, but, you know, magical. This is the second installment in a series, I highly recommend reading the first one first, and if the cover and blurb didn't make it clear, it's super duper gay.

And oh, it was nice to be back. Marske's writing is just lovely, and she's an expert at pairing action/adventure with historical fantasy and swoony/steamy romance. It's an excellent recipe, and she handles it deftly. Maud was a great protagonist, and it was fun to be inside her head after having her as a secondary character in the first book. The steam was steamy, the plot was twisty, it added more depth to the world, and it was an overall good time.

It didn't have quite the same sparkle to me as the first installment, but I think that's more commentary on me than the book. I wanted a bit more time for yearning and slow moments, but overall I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next one.

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This sequel to A Marvelous Light builds on the magical world we were introduced to in that novel with an entirely new cast of characters (well, mostly new). Maud Blythe is on her way back from America on a White Star Line cruise ship when her bunkmate (and magical elder) is murdered. The race for important magical items and the search for her murderer ensues without ever leaving the confines of the ship itself. I loved Maud and Violet (and Hawthorn!) and found the closed door mystery a super fun way to explore this world even more.

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Maud Blyth is going to England as a companion to Mrs. Elizabeth Navenby. Mrs. Navenby is murdered and it's up to Maud to find out who murdered her. She meets Miss Violet Debenham at dinner and they strike up a friendship. A murder mystery set at sea is a perfect type of "locked room" sort of story but there are lost of places to explore, people to meet and a finite amount of time in which to solve said mystery before shore is reached. I am terrible at mysteries but I enjoyed every hint, twist, turn and red herring along the way.

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I loved A Marvellous Light and was so excited for this book! I adored Maud in the first book and loved getting to know more about her and her upbringing. I also thought she had great chemistry with Violet and I appreciated that Marske was not afraid to depict on page intimacy between the two women! It was a great read!

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