Cover Image: A Restless Truth

A Restless Truth

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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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Mostly enjoyed the beginning but then the plot started to drag a bit for me. I ended up dnfing this one at around the halfway mark but might try again in the future.
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This book definitely suffers from a bit of middle book syndrome. I enjoyed it because I enjoy the way that Freya Marske writes and the atmosphere she creates. Like A Marvellous Light, this book mixed important conversations about self with sexual tension and witty banter. I was constantly tabbing beautiful lines or hilarious dialogue. 

I liked the relationship in this book. I was apprehensive when I learned that the sequel would follow Maud as I found her aggravating in book one. Though she is still incredibly naive, she becomes aware of it over the course of the book. Her journey of self-discovery was enjoyable and made me like her character a lot more. Violet was a very interesting love interest and honestly, I think I liked her character more than Maud. She fits a lot of the classic male love interest stereotypes. Watching her figure out how to fit Maud into her life was amazing. 

The main flaw of this book is that it is way too damn long. A Marvellous Light lagged a bit in the middle, but the pacing issue was glaringly obvious in A Restless Truth. A lot of the complicating actions in the book felt like they were there just to drag the story out. There were a lot of repetitive moments with the mystery to the point that it lost a lot of its tension. A lot of things happened through convenience or the stupidity of a character. Rather than focusing solely on the mystery for 400 pages, I would've liked to see the characters live a normal life on the ship. From a logical sense, it would have made them a lot less suspicious. It also would have provided some amazing moments for character progression and relationship building and would've filled out the slack in the middle of the book. 

A Restless Truth had very big shoes to fill after my complete obsession with A Marvellous Light. I enjoyed the setup of A Marvellous Light a lot more. The curse created a constant tension that led to some fabulous scenes between Robin and Edwin. It also felt like more happened in book one, despite it being about 30 pages shorter. I honestly don't think I even expected to like A Restless Truth as much as its predecessor. So I wouldn't say I was disappointed, rather my expectations were simply met.

I am optimistic for book three, though I admit I am curious (and a little bit afraid) to find out whose perspective we will be following.
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A Restless Truth is the sapphic, sea faring sequel to A Marvellous Light— one of my favorite reads last year. Filled with swashbuckling good fun, a twisty mystery and plenty of steam, it is a great companion to the world Marske set up with Edwin and Robin in a magical Victorian England. 

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

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

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

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

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

4/5 stars
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I have been waiting for this book all year!  I read A Marvelous Light (Part #1 in The Last Binding Series) back in February and loved it! This is a queer historical fantasy romance set in Edwardian England. Some fans of book 1 may be disappointed that Robin and Edwin don't make much of an appearance here, as the story focusses on Robin's sister Maud and her new acquaintance, Violet Debenham.  But never fear, Maud and Violet's chemistry is just as fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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