Book Title: A Restless Truth
Author: Freya Marske
Release Date: November 1, 2022
Genres: Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, LGBTQ+
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Magic! Murder! Shipboard romance! The second entry in Freya Marske’s beloved The Last Binding trilogy, the queer historical fantasy series that began with A Marvellous Light
The most interesting things in Maud Blyth’s life have happened to her brother Robin, but she’s ready to join any cause, especially if it involves magical secrets that may threaten the whole of the British Isles. Bound for New York on the R.M.S. Lyric, she’s ready for an adventure.
What she actually finds is a dead body, a disrespectful parrot, and a beautiful stranger in Violet Debenham, who is everything—a magician, an actress, a scandal—Maud has been trained to fear and has learned to desire. Surrounded by the open sea and a ship full of loathsome, aristocratic suspects, they must solve a murder and untangle a conspiracy that began generations before them.
As someone who completely adored A Marvellous Light, I was so, so thrilled to hear there would be a sequel. I will admit to being a little disappointed when I heard this one wouldn’t be about Robin and Edwin. However, I was still super excited cause I loved Maud’s character in the first book, and I just knew she’d be a fun protagonist to follow. And I was correct!
A Restless Truth, while continuing the story of A Marvellous Light (just with different main characters), had a completely different tone and feel to it, which I loved. Each book contained a certain mystery aspect, but their settings and protagonists are very distinct to one another. This book felt like a Victorian mystery novel with a dash of magic and romance. Because it took place on a ship, it also gave it that locked in feel, which is one of my favorite tropes!
The world of the Last Binding series is so fascinating to me. How they utilize magic is done in a way I haven’t really seen before, and since I’ve read a lot of fantasy books, that’s pretty cool. Even though this book did focus on magic, I feel like the mystery aspect took center stage, which I had no qualms against. For Maud and Violet’s journey, this just made sense. Even so, there was still a lot of suspense built up around the magicians trapped with them on the ship, and the uncertainty of who they could trust. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.
Having a romance take place over seven days was an interesting choice, but one that Freya Marske expertly executed. The way Maud and Violet’s feelings for each other developed was so natural and authentic, while never feeling rushed. Their journey certainly wasn’t smooth sailing (hah, puns), but I was rooting for them the whole time.
Violet’s character was a lot of fun because of how closed off she is to the world. She hides her true self behind a mask and very rarely allows anyone to get behind it. Maud, of course, begins to peek behind the facade, and that terrifies Violet. Both women are fierce and brave, but approach the world so differently. Maud is trusting, kind, and empathetic, whereas Violet is more cynical, harder to get to know, and more wary of others. This creates a wonderful dynamic between the two. They each push the other out of their comfort zones, but always for the better.
I adored their relationship! A lot of people still seem to think there aren’t that many great sapphic books out there, but that is so not true. This is just one example of a fantastic sapphic book. The chemistry between Maud and Violet was electric, but they were also sweet and caring towards the other. While Violet was already secure in who she was and who she’s attracted to, Maud had never considered the idea of being with another woman, so it’s a bit of a learning experience for her, and one Violet is there to help her through the entire time.
In addition to Maud and Violet’s dynamic, I also loved the found family vibes we got from Maud, Violet, Hawthorne, and Ross. I find Hawthorne’s character so interesting. There’s still a lot we don’t know about him, but in this book we got a deeper look behind the gruff and uncaring man he presents himself as. His friendship with Maud and Violet might have been begrudging, but I loved their interactions. Adding Ross created the perfect group. All four are so distinct and varied in personalities and thoughts, so while their opinions may clash from time to time, they all work together really well. It also makes for some really funny moments that I won’t spoil, but had me cackling with laughter.
Between the suspenseful plot, electric relationship, and intriguing friend group, A Restless Truth was a wild ride worth every second of my time. I can’t wait to see where this story goes in the next book (and I have an inkling for who I think it’ll be about!).
The Last Binding is without a doubt one of my favorite series. Historical fiction? Romance? Fantasy? Mystery? What more can a person ask for? Not to mention, Freya Marske’s writing style is elegant and clean, making for an engaging and quick read.
If you haven’t read A Marvellous Light or a Restless Truth yet, I highly recommend it!
Thank you to Pride Book Tours for providing me with a physical copy of the book, and to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!
Check out my last blog post: The Luminaries (ARC Review)