Book Review | The Knave of Secrets @WriteReadsTours

A little late with this one because I have been snowed under with things but also because this is a book that needed my full attention.


The Knave of Secrets
Alex Livingston

A twisty tale of magicians, con artists and card games, where secrets are traded and gambled like coin, for fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Mask of Mirrors.

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…

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There’s something about secrets that just instantly grabs my attention so a story involving a tournament that uses secrets as its currency sounded fascinating and I knew I had to read it, luckily I wasn’t disappointed. The Knave of Secrets was full of intrigue, the magic and the card games were very unique and added the extra element of suspense to the story and you can tell that a lot of thought and planning has gone into this extensive world.

The story is told through multiple POVs which I always enjoy and it gives the reader a chance to get to know more about the world from different perspectives, unfortunately, it didn’t always help with keeping things straight in my mind. The world-building is amazing and I am in awe of the amount of detail that the author has gone to, for me though I felt like some of the fundamentals kept getting lost, I struggled to remember who was Cadois and who was L’Ombrian and why they were against each other and who was ruling them, which I found particularly difficult during Omer-Guy and Ria’s chapters because they are characters that are heavily involved in the politics of the world.

There were also a few occasions where the language used for certain things didn’t have enough descriptors for me to quickly work out what was being talked about, there wasn’t enough context within that moment of the story for me to ascertain what I was supposed to be seeing, and I just had to read on and hope it would become a little clearer. I did eventually draw my own conclusions but I prefer not to have to think too hard over one particular point because it usually detracts from my reading experience.

I really enjoyed the central players in this story Valen, Ten, Jaq, and Margo, and I found it fascinating the way they played, hearing about the different ways that they could cheat in each game, and how they work together to make sure the outcome was what they desired. I wish that I could have known more about them, I think that one of the things I noticed about the characters and the overall story is that because this world is so big and there is a lot to cover within the story it’s like we only got the chance to scratch the surface. I don’t mean this as a negative, the characters still have a lot of depth and you can still see their motivations within the story, it’s just that I can tell there are so many more stories from each of them and I would love to dive further.

The story was for the most part fast-paced, there are a few parts that didn’t quite keep the same level, but I always expect that in a fantasy book especially one where you are learning a whole new world and community and I like to take my time with that anyway. The last section of the book though is where it starts to really come together and I was transfixed until the end. Again, after the main climax, the ending felt like there should be a little more to it but I feel like it has been left open for the possibility of revisiting this world. Which is to say I really hope I get to revisit this world in the future.


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.

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