Well met! Today is my stop on the book tour for The Knave of Secrets by Alex Livingston, a high fantasy story with a world that feels heavily inspired by 18th century history. I’m going to give you my first impressions of the book in this post! I have to admit, I was drawn in by comparisons to The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Mask of Mirrors but the book itself is quite different. Let’s take a look.
The Knave of Secrets by Alex Livingston
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…
I was provided with a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.
I will start by saying that this book wasn’t for me. I read about 50% of it before deciding to move along, which is why I will not be considering this a full review. However, there is a lot in here to love and I’d like to share that with you.
The first thing I want to talk about is actually the reason The Knave of Secrets ended up not working for me; there is not a lot of action. Every now and then things kick off and it gets exciting, but for the most part, Livingston is content to tell the story and introduce the reader to our cast of characters and the world of politics and games, which are not precisely inseparable things. This is actually something I was talking to my husband about the other day. He absolutely adores narration that takes its time and isn’t afraid to have two people sat on a roof discussing the state of the world. Whereas I tend to get a little impatient. If you’re that kind of reader? Oh boy is The Knave of Secrets for you.
Of course we have to talk about the cardsharping. The story starts off with Valen and his crew conning some minor nobleman out of a lot of money. They are shown to be very well-versed in the art of cardsharping, extremely cunning, and excellent confolk with the tools to ensure victory. The way they work together and play to their own individual strengths is great to read about and we see this in the preparation for the Forbearance Games as well. Valen’s wife, in fact, works hard behind the scenes to prepare card decks for any kind of game that may come up. It’s clear that Maguerite knows what she wants and she has built that life for herself with Valen. My favourite of the group is Jaquemin, however. Quick to anger, but skilled in witchcraft. I think my favourite moment, by far, is Jaq screaming in the street about helping somebody while biting the head off a rat. That mental image will never leave my brain.
This is a multisided POV book and we don’t just meet the crew. There is also a magician, Michel, one of the mysterious Brothers who work from the Pendent Tower, an exceedingly tall structure within Saut-Leronne capped by the Loose Stair and a broken tower that floats firmly in place. And a couple of ambassadors, one with two hands firmly within the machinations of Saut-Leronne politics, and another who runs a casino in a distant country who became ambassador to Saut-Leronne almost as a courtesy, who has decided it’s time to visit the city and ensure the position of certain nobles.
It’s very much a book of cardsharps, politics, and magic. There are gangsters running around chasing folk, there’s a great secret that everybody wants, and when I left off, we were just setting off to discover what that is and why everybody is so ready to kill for it.
Who is The Knave of Secrets for? People who love multiple POVs with plotlines that feature cardsharps and intricate political manoeuvrings, who enjoy less action-heavy books with magic and secrets to explore.
Meet 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.
A few reviews from the ongoing tour from The Write Reads: