ARC Review: The Kingdom of Liars (The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings #1) by Nick Martell

I received a free copy of this book for review via Netgalley, all opinions are my own, amazon links are affiliated and if you purchase through them I may receive a small commission.


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I was pretty lukewarm on the cover until I noticed the shattered moon, I appreciate when there are personal touches tying the cover to the book, so I actually like this, though I wish the title was moved down to obscure less of the cover art

In this brilliant debut fantasy, a story of secrets, rebellion, and murder are shattering the Hollows, where magic costs memory to use, and only the son of the kingdom’s despised traitor holds the truth.

Michael is branded a traitor as a child because of the murder of the king’s nine-year-old son, by his father David Kingman. Ten years later on Michael lives a hardscrabble life, with his sister Gwen, performing crimes with his friends against minor royals in a weak attempt at striking back at the world that rejects him and his family.

In a world where memory is the coin that pays for magic, Michael knows something is there in the hot white emptiness of his mind. So when the opportunity arrives to get folded back into court, via the most politically dangerous member of the kingdom’s royal council, Michael takes it, desperate to find a way back to his past. He discovers a royal family that is spiraling into a self-serving dictatorship as gun-wielding rebels clash against magically trained militia.

What the truth holds is a set of shocking revelations that will completely change the Hollows, if Michael and his friends and family can survive long enough to see it.

This book is action-packed, which made it exciting to read, but at times made the plot less than clear. The last half of the book was easy to breeze through, but the first half was a bit jumbled in the effort to set up the crazy number of plots and sub-plots featured in The Kingdom of Liars. Elements of the book are reminiscent of other great series—the magic-induced memory loss is very much like Holly Black’s Curse Workers trilogy; the clash of guns and magic is reminiscent of Brandon Sanderson’s Wax and Wayne novels; the initial set-up of the protagonist staring down the barrel of an execution is similar to Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series; and Dark seems like he could have stepped out of Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Brent Weeks’ Assassin’s Way or Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker. To be honest, though, The Kingdom of Liars reads differently to every book I just mentioned, so a direct comparison doesn’t really work.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the way the book begins, because I think there’s plenty of tension driving the novel without starting with a teaser that seems a little like clickbait. Local kingsman murders king? Keep reading to find out how!!1 The slow reveal of Michael’s memories was also less interesting to me than the events happening in the present time, and I think this book could have been simplified to a more hard-hitting, streamlined novel. That being said, the major mysteries set up in The Kingdom of Liars are satisfactorily resolved, with plenty still left to explore in future books.

Other than the at times too complex plot, the protagonist was another weak point in an amazingly strong debut. Michael isn’t likeable, and his actions are pretty stupid a lot of the time. Given his age, it’s not entirely unrealistic, but the juxtaposition of his competence in some areas with his utter lack of foresight in making decisions can be frustrating to read. I’d love to read a novel following Gwen, Dark, Chloe, Omari, Alex, Naomi and half a dozen other characters introduced in this world. I would read another book following Michael, but I think there are more interesting people available.

The world of Hollow and beyond is an intricate and interesting one, and I look forward to seeing more than the one city in future novels in this series. The magic system is left a little vague, but I appreciate that there is a cost for the power. The political system is also less detailed than I would like, but the book was already quite long, and the first installment of a series can only do so much without becoming bogged down with details and backstory.

The Kingdom of Liars will appeal to those who don’t mind unlikable characters that you grow fond of, that enjoy a good subverted trope, and who are willing to invest in a series with an interesting world, and maybe wait a while for things to really start making sense. After I finished The Kingdom of Liars I was a little shocked at how much got seemingly organically explained, and how much still absolutely had not been. I love fantasy series myself (nothing worse than a fascinating world and cast that you have to leave too soon), so this book was a solid read, but the most exciting thing about this book is the potential in the world and story line.

The release date on Netgalley is clearly wrong, but I believe The Kingdom of Liars will be available on the 5th of May, 2020.

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