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The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell

The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell
4.25
Book Name: The Kingdom of Liars
Author: Nick Martell
Publisher(s): Saga Press (US) Gollancz (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy / Mystery
Release Date: June 23, 2020 (US) May 7, 2020 (UK)

2020 continues to present books by debut authors, which continues the expansion of speculative fiction canon. Several works by new authors remind readers the genre is influenced by more than just fantasy and science fiction. Nick Martell’s debut—The Kingdom of Liars, the first book in The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings—is part epic fantasy and part mystery as readers are introduced to a new fantasy world while trying to figure out, “Who did it?”

Michael Kingman is the protagonist as well as the prime suspect in the murder of King Issac Hollow, ten years after his father—David Kingman—was accused, tried, and executed for the murder of Prince David Hollow. During the span of the decade, Michael experienced the fall of his family from society and was ostracized by everyone else. He has been reduced to living as a street urchin with the brand of a traitor. However, when a job opportunity provides a chance to prove his father was framed, Michael returns to high society and participates in the Endless Waltz, one of the most cutthroat gatherings for members of elite society.

Other characters to know are Lyon and Gwen Kingman, Michael’s siblings who share the same fate as the rest of their family, but have different outlooks about their father and their family’s future. Angelo Shade, a member of the military and the foster father to Michael, Lyon and Gwen. High Noble Charles Domet known for being inebriated and well-connected who decides to “mentor” Michael during the Endless Waltz. Trey and Sirash, Michael’s friends who balance morals with survival; Dark, the mercenary who has an obsession with Kingman family; Naomi, another participant in the Endless Waltz, who has higher aspirations than everyone else is aware of. And, Prince Adreann, also known as the “Corrupt Prince,” who lives up to his sobriquet. Like Michael, all of these characters want to know—or, believe they know—the truth. And, when everyone desires the truth, they all become liars.

Nick Martell delves right into the dilemma of the story from the beginning: The King is murdered ten years after the Crowned Prince met a similar fate. It seems the Kingman family can’t stop committing regicide. Then again, it appears the Kingman family has numerous allies who believe they are innocent. It seems the Kingman family are caught in a political conspiracy and all of the opponents want the family on their side. When the first of the truths are revealed, the readers will be taken aback just like the protagonist. This fantasy focuses more on the politics than the magic, and it works.

The author spends an equivalent amount of time between worldbuilding and mystery. It’s not often a book can blend two genres into a coherent story, but Martell accomplishes this by giving readers a mystery to solve while exploring a new world. Another thing the author does is NOT give away everything about the magic system in this book. Just enough information is provided so the audience becomes familiar with it. The Kingdom of Liars is the first in a series, so the author can focus on the mystery of the regicide and keep his readers wondering about the other magical forces within this world.

It seems as though Martell has allowed the title to explain the premise of the story. In a world where memories are worth their weight in gold, it is no surprise that the world’s denizens would tell lies and falsehoods in order to preserve and/or to overcompensate their memories, and the truth. At the same time, the political system and the royal family have become weak. Similar to The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon and A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, The Kingdom of Liars delves into the beginning of the failure of society, and what could happen if society continues its downfall.

I would describe The Kingdom of Liars as an epic fantasy that seeks to solve the mystery and the conflict within society before it explores the magic system. At the same time, our protagonist is neither good nor evil because he is a product of his society: infamous and deceptive. There are no innocent characters in this book, and each mystery is connected to another mystery. Not to mention, the magic system of Fabrication is used at the cost of one’s memories. This debut novel demonstrates the reality within a fantasy, and it does it very well.

The Kingdom of Liars is an excellent debut novel in which the magic will keep readers interested while the twists within the narrative will keep them engaged until the end. If the title gives premise to this protagonist, then the protagonist for the next book in the series, The Two-Faced Queen, sounds even more intriguing.

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