Today I’m pleased to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for The Knave of Secrets a brilliant and different fantasy novel and one I enjoyed very much! You can read my review and find more information on the author and some pre-order links below, but first I’d like to thank The Write Reads and the publisher for a free copy of the book and the chance to be a part of the tour. Now let’s see why I enjoyed this book so much. 🙂
Title: The Knave of Secrets
Author: Alex Livingston
Publisher: Solaris (Rebellion Publishing)
Book format: Pre-publication proof copy
Description: 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…
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: This is a brilliant story and one which I enjoyed from the first pages. Valen and his friends Teneriève and Jaquemin are card sharps, people who cheat at various card and other games in order to win and con other players out of their money. Valen uses his cardsharping skills to earn a living, and one day he’s invited to play at the Forbearance Games, one of the most prestigious games where it isn’t just money that is traded but precious secrets. But when Valen wins a particularly expensive secret, he and his friends become targets, someone wants the secret Valen holds and they are willing to kill to get it.
This is a great and different fantasy story and one which I found myself enjoying from the very first pages. Valen and his friends enjoy spending time earning money from cheating at cards and dice games. The first scene in the book opens with Valen playing a game against three other opponents and we see the skills and way he and his friends play in order to cheat someone out of their money. But while Valen’s life of cardsharping brings in enough money, he soon finds himself unable to resist playing at the Forebearance Game even though he knows it could spell trouble for his family and friends.
The story is told from multiple perspectives with each chapter following a different character, though always written in the third person perspective. While I’ve read some reviewers found the multiple points of view confusing, it wasn’t at all for me and I enjoyed getting to know the different characters involved including Valen, Teneriève and Michel. Teneriève is a character I enjoyed, being a Mistigri, an outsider (a bit like a gypsy), Teneriève thinks and acts a little differently to the others and I like how we get to learn some of her back story as well as see how she acts in certain situations. I also liked learning more about Valen and his past, the magical past he and Teneriève share by being a part of the Séminaire, a place where certain people practice magic, and how Valen is also not your typical main character like in so many fantasy books by being older than some of the others.
The story is complex, not only do we learn about how magic is intertwined within the world, but the world that Valen and his friends live is interesting and different. There are a couple of maps at the start of the book which show you boththe island of Valtiffe, where Valen and the others live and where most of the story takes place, as well as the wider continental world. The island of Valtiffe is small compared to the continent and the rival countries of L’Ombres and Cadonga are shown too. I really liked looking at these maps and there are some fun extras printed on them such as which games are favoured in which cities and what political leaning some towns and cities have towards the continental countries, but I have to say that although I did see some of the locations mentioned in the story on these maps, a couple of places I just couldn’t see and I hope the map will be a little bigger and with these place names printed in the final copy.
The story is good with a lot of things happening. At first we don’t know why all the different characters are involved and what they have to do with each other when we start reading, but as you continue to read on with the story you begin to see that it’s not just a simple tale of Valen’s cardsharping but a wider story about the politics of Valtiffe and what will happen to the island nation, though despite being political in parts it was never boring. This political part of the story was well told and despite the complexity of the story I never found myself lost and unable to understand what was going on. In fact I found myself engrossed at every moment, unable to put the book down as I just wanted to keep reading to find out what happened next.
I wont spoil the story by giving away more, but Valen and his friends end up in a dangerous and tense situation. People’s lives are threatened and as the story leads to the final end it gets more and more interesting. The ending is good and something I wasn’t expecting. I like how things work out and the brilliant surprise in the way things happen. I like how things go for the main characters, especially what happens with Teneriève in the end and how that last scene in the book wraps things up well and makes the whole story just so good and a great ending. To be honest I really wish there could be more to this story, I just didn’t want to leave the characters, I wanted to see what happens to them in the future it was so good. The book does have the occasional use of the f and s swear words and some deaths but nothing gruesome. The back of the book features a few appendices which feature information on the characters, the different games played in the regions and information on the texts that are quoted before every chapter. I liked this little extra part, it was fun to read and I enjoyed reading more on the different games played in the book.
Overall this is a really good fantasy book and one I enjoyed more than I thought I would. I’ve never read a story following a cardsharp before, but I enjoyed getting to know Valen and his friends and what happened with them. I like how the main characters aren’t perfect, how some of the games were explained, enough information for you to gather how the game is played but not so much as to bore you. And I also love how magic is intertwined with the story. It’s definitely a book I’ll read again in the future and one I’d recommend if you’re after some good fantasy with a different feel.
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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.
Thank you for joining me on my stop for the blog tour of this brilliant book! Do check out the other stops happening by heading on over to twitter and seeing the hashtag #TheKnaveOfSecrets. 🙂
What do you think of this book? Do you like books with maps? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂