The Knave of Secrets

Solaris. Jun. 2022. 400p. ISBN 9781786186072. $24.99. FANTASY
In Livingston’s (Glitch Rain) new fantasy thriller, the magical setting of Valtiffe and the history of its Forbearance Game showcase the fantasy of politics as it truly is, a game of chance where every player is a pawn no matter how high their ambitions or how noble (or otherwise) their birth. In this game, fortunes and empires rise and fall on the turn of a card or the roll of the dice. Valen Quinol may have flunked at traditional magic, but as a successful cardsharp he knows that his uncanny luck is as dependent on magic as it is a marked deck. He goes into the Forbearance Game thinking he’s playing for the right to become a voting citizen with access to games of chance at much higher stakes, but he’s really the pawn of pirates and emperors using him to turn the tide of conquest and diplomacy. He’ll be lucky if the cost of the deadly secret he has won doesn’t turn out to be his life.
VERDICT This novel’s sleight-of-hand mix of gaming, thievery, secrets, and politics will remind readers fondly of Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora, although Valen’s crew is not quite as loyal or memorable. Fans of politically inspired fantasy will love watching the game.
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