“We are Ellinburg, and we stand together. You can hurt us, you can even ma us bleed, but you can never make us fear”
Priest of Lies by Peter McLean is the second book in the War of the Rose Throne series. Like it’s predecessor, McLean writes another brutal, complex, and mesmerising fantasy story about what it takes to be one of the most formidable gangs in Ellinburg and beyond.
There are no days off for Tomas Piety, leader of the Pious Men. We find out in the first book that the Skanians (foreign enemy) are right outside the door of Ellinburg, and won’t stop till they blow the doors off all Tomas Piety has worked for. Danger lurks around every alleyway and corner as gang warfare ensues through the heart of the city. To make matters even more complicated, Tomas is still being asked to do the bidding of the Queen through his wife Ailsa, a member of the Queen’s Men. The Queen’s Men are essentially spies who do the queen’s bidding. He must travel outside Ellinburg to Dannsburg a city of the high society. There Thomas finds out there is a lot more happening behind the scenes and new enemies are coming out of the shadows.
Will Tomas be able to save Ellinburg from the Skanians? Will it finally be too much to handle for the leader of the Pious Men? Well read the series and you’ll find out won’t you!
Going into Priest of Lies I was nervous whether it would be as fantastic as Priest of Bones. Funnily enough it was even better as our eyes are further widened at the situation in Ellinburg and beyond. As a narrator Tomas is just fantastic and complex. I love knowing what’s going inside his mind and how he plans all of his intricate moves. The stakes are much higher this time around and you actually feel the tension as Tomas whether he likes it or not doesn’t have all the answers. Thomas is also under even more pressure to balance being a businessman/gangster with being a Queen’s Man.
In the first book you could tell the Tomas and crew were 100% behind him in his decisions. But due to being away from Ellinburg and Thomas’s attitude of “it’s my way or the high way”, this creates a lot of tension between Tomas and his crew. Even his right hand woman Bloody Anne starts to question what the hell is going on. This for was great as it increased the pressure for me. Like it was so intense that at times I really thought those closest to Tomas would just up and leave Thomas’s side.
Tomas isn’t the “good guy” per say, but I actually started to find him to be an even bigger asshole due to his obsession with increasing his power, even if it means his crew members aren’t happy. So yeah relationships are definitely tested.
I also liked how Peter McLean expands the world building aspect as Thomas sets off to Dannsburg with his wife Ailsa. Straight away Tomas feels isolated and uncomfortable as the vibe is totally different to Ellinburg. These are folk of a much higher stature and they don’t know Tomas like Ellinburg knows Tomas. Society is of a much higher class in Dannsburg compared to Ellinburg. Where Ellinburg is more about talking with ones swords to get what you want, Dannsburg is more focused on getting ones hands dirty through your words and ability to manipulate others. Thomas quickly adapts getting an idea of how things work in Dannsburg and what makes it tick. But in the process makes enemies and friends alike.
Being in Dannsburg really spices things up further as there are a lot more political elements this time around. Tomas must maneuver his way through high society and attempt to find out what power moves are being played. Luckily he has Fat Luka with him to listen in on things and find out secrets. Soon Tomas realises Dannsburg has a lot in common with Ellinburg and that it’s not that different.
Speaking of the world building, I thought McLean expanding our knowledge of the magic system i.e. “the cunning” really fleshed things out. We learn that there are more people who have this power and also how both sides are attempting to recruit those with “the cunning” to get the upper hand.
In terms of the characters, they again shine in the second book. As I said before, Tomas has this voice that is able to grab you with everything he says or does. His words are commanding and extremely powerful. I’m thinking Mufasa from the Lion King lol. Although Tomas makes many questionable decisions, he is the right man for the job and I think the only man who could handle the pressure.
There are also many side characters like Jochan the brother of Tomas. Jochan is suffering from severe battle shock, i.e. PTSD. This is something many of the characters have but it has made Jochan more unhinged than he was before. He is extremely violent and enjoys the bottle a bit too much. We also have characters like Fat Luka, the eyes and ears of Tomas Piety. If you need answers Fat Luka will find them. Then there’s Bloody Anne my favourite in book one and again this time. She is the second in command to Tomas and probably the only true friend Tomas has ever had. We then have Ailsa a member of the Queen’s Men and also plays the reluctant wife of Tomas. Finally, there’s Billy the Boy who portrays the adopted son of Ailsa and Tomas. Billy is stronger than he looks as he has the cunning. Billy is able to blow people’s head open due to how strong and powerful he is with the cunning. It makes for some very gruesome moments for sure 😅.
All in all, Peter McLean returns with another fantastic followup to the War of the Rose Throne series. I loved how my knowledge of the world outside Ellinburg was expanded to Dannsburg and the further tension within Ellinburg made for some intense moments. The final moments for one were absolutely superb and had me on the edge of my seat. I can’t wait to see what The Priest of Gallows will bring and I’m super super excited for it!