If you, like me, absolutely loved Vargo in the first book, you’ll be delighted to know we get even more of him in the sequel, and more from his perspective. I was a bit less enthusiastic about Grey, but he definitely grew on me throughout The Liar’s Knot. And, of course, Ren remains an easy character to love and root for, as she becomes even more mixed up in Nedezra’s politics and the nobles’ schemes. I’m particularly impressed by how Ren still feels like a real, distinct character, despite all her various personas and how easy it would be for her to seem super-intelligent or invincible. The messy tangle of relationships and secrets between these three was the highlight of this book.
It’s come to my attention recently that I love when books have multiple well-defined magic systems, and bonus points if they interact in interesting ways. The first book sets this up with the introduction of pattern, numenatria, and imbuing. The Liar’s Knot takes it even further with the ways that these different systems might interconnect and inform each other, along with the entities behind the physical manifestation of the magic. In this and every other way, the worldbuilding is exquisitely planned.
Another aspect that impressed me about this series so far is the side characters. There are a lot of characters we don’t spend all that much time with, yet they don’t seem stagnant. Each obviously has their own stuff going on, which leads to believable character development even when a lot of what caused that development is off screen. I was happy with how much we got to see Giuna grow, despite only visiting her perspective a handful of times, and the same with Iascat, who I believe only came on page twice.
My feelings on the romance in this book are complicated. Not because it’s not good. The authors delivered a wonderful slow burn, with friendship and trust developing first while each of them gradually admit to themselves what they want and eventually give in. I ended up shipping it more than I expected to. But there’s something else I want from the romance, which I think we have a great setup for and would be absolutely perfect if delivered in the next book. If not, I’ll definitely be a bit disappointed.
The stakes in this series keep rising in a way that’s incredibly well-crafted but I almost wish wasn't the case only because I love simple, dramatic ballroom politics just as much as potentially catastrophic dark magic and secret cults. Fortunately, this author duo are masters of intricate plotting, characterization, and world-building, whatever the stakes. So much so that I already want to reread these first two books again and can’t wait for the next one.