Hello readers! Welcome to my stop on the Ultimate Blog Tour for The Knave of Secrets by Alex Livingston! Thank you to Dave @The_WriteReads for including me in this tour and also to the author and publisher for the opportunity to read this book!
Title: The Knave of Secrets
Author: Alex Livingston
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: June 7th, 2022 (Rebellion Publishing)
Synopsis: A twisty tale of magicians, con artists and card games, where secrets are traded and gambled like coin, for fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Mask of Mirrors.
Never stake more than you can afford to lose.
When failed magician turned cardsharp Valen Quinol is given the chance to play in the Forbearance Game – the invitation-only tournament where players gamble with secrets – he can’t resist. Or refuse, for that matter, according to the petty gangster sponsoring his seat at the table. Valen beats the man he was sent to play, and wins the most valuable secret ever staked in the history of the tournament.
Now Valen and his motley crew are being hunted by thieves, gangsters, spies and wizards, all with their own reasons for wanting what’s in that envelope. It’s a game of nations where Valen doesn’t know all the rules or who all the players are, and can’t see all the moves. But he does know if the secret falls into the wrong hands, it could plunge the whole world into war…
Thank you to the publisher, Rebellion Publishing, and NetGalley for providing this eARC as part of a blog tour with The Write Reads in exchange for an honest review.
When cardsharp Valen Quinol is offered an opportunity to attend and play in the invitation-only Forbearance Game, a gambling tournament where players stake secrets, by a local gangster, he cannot resist. Valen does what he was sent there to do, beat another player who has an extremely valuable stake, and wins the secret too – but now he and his crew are in danger on all sides. From gangsters to spies everyone is after this secret, knowledge that is worth a fortune, and in the wrong hands, could start a war.
The world building in this book was both detailed and fascinating, and seemingly French inspired. This book also had not one but two maps at the beginning, something very useful for this story given the complex politics between the various nations and the number of parties who have a stake in the whole situation. The appendices at the end of the book were also quite nice as they were a good way to keep up with the many characters and all the gambling games they played. What most impressed me most though, was how complex this story and world were for a standalone novel.
The characters were likeable enough, though the frequent POV switches didn’t allow me to really understand them in as much depth as I like for a fantasy novel. I felt like much of the book was tell rather than show and it affected the character development the most as right until the end, I couldn’t connect to or sympathize with any of them. I felt like they were all very two dimensional and it made it extremely hard to root for them. While the many POVs did not make the story any harder to follow, these many were not necessary either. The narration style just didn’t work for me and I found it detrimental to a story that should have been so much more exciting than it was given the nature of the plot.
Conceptually, this book sounded amazing and reminded me of some favorite books of mine centered around heists and such, but the execution was rather lacking to say the least. It started out on a promising note, stepping right into the middle of things, but that didn’t last. Unfortunately, the synopsis was more or less 50% of the book, during which there was a lot of history and background to the point of info-dumping that made it drag way too much.
Overall, I would have to say that this book, despite the interesting concept, just didn’t work for me. The plot certainly had a lot of potential however, and the world building was quite skilled, so I would definitely consider reading any other books by this author. The Knave of Secrets also does leave some room for a sequel, so I’d be curious to see where that plot might lead. Thanks again to The Write Reads blog tour for the opportunity to read this book!
About the Author
Alex Livingston grew up in various quiet New England towns before moving to Buffalo, NY to study English at Canisius College. He writes SFF prose and interactive fiction. Alex is married and lives in an old house with his brilliant wife and a pile of aged videogame systems.
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!