If the defining term for The Masks of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick is ‘subterfuge’, then its sequel, The Liar’s Knot can summarily be defined by ‘found family’—specifically, the main characters and their bond between each other.
Readers of the first book will by now, be more than aware of the gorgeous, swashbuckling style that the Rook & Rose trilogy promises; the deftness with which subterfuge and plots are overlaid on top of each other, along with its keen attention to fashion make a triumphant return. Perhaps more notably, the plot continues to intrigue even as the events of the first book find a firm conclusion, with Ondrakja and her zlyzen, and Mettore Indestor out of the picture.
But as in any epic fantasy, there’s always another threat, another thread to unravel, and this becomes the main premise of The Liar’s Knot. Who placed a cursed upon House Traementis? Is Vargo, whose actions betrayed Renata previously a foe, or an ally?
“Nothing about Nadežra is clean, from Lower Bank to Upper. But this is and always has been a city of masks.”
This is where The Liar’s Knot shines—where the previous book excels at the interplay of secrets building up upon each other and being juggled in a gradually dizzying loop, here the narrative is at its best unravelling those secrets and letting them tumble into a glorious, messy pile.
M.A. Carrick have discovered the perfect balance to strike with revealing a character’s secrets, and it’s a refreshing moment of realism; sometimes people confide in each other, especially after undergoing life-or-death situations, and they find comfort in that! Neither does the plot’s tension go away, because it simply shifts perspective, from between characters to the adversities at hand.
Indeed, that very confrontation of lies, of revealing the truth makes The Liar’s Knot a fitting name. In the setting, a knot can also refer to a gang of thieves, and so the title becomes something of a wordplay, for Renata, Grey and Vargo are all liars in and of themselves, and it’s only through showing their faces—and thus, creating that knot—can they face the threats that loom over them.
And of course, there’s more than just character moments to look forward to in The Liar’s Knot. The Rook continues their fantastical crusade behind the inscrutable hood, Vargo continues to be intriguing in the ways only those bearing a villain’s edge often do, there’s more detailed descriptions of clothing and the city the characters inhabit, and even the arcane mysteries of a cult to delve into.
To reiterate, on top of the riot of color and style that the first book brought, The Liar’s Knot provides much, much more character drama and development; it’s very much a book that focuses on making you root tenfold for characters you’ve come to like in the first, and asks you to love them, even as they come to love each other. If you’re one for excellent character writing, I cannot recommend this more, for I certainly enjoyed it a great deal more than the first.