Warning this review contains some spoilers. Read with caution if you haven’t finished the book!

The Prince of Lies is the final installment in Anne Lyle’s debut Night’s Masque Trilogy, published by Angry Robot. It brings the story of Mal and Coby, Ned and Sandy to a conclusion. Mal and Coby have returned to London with their adopted son, Kit, who carries the reincarnated soul of skrayling ambassador Kiirren. The rebellious guisers – skraylings who have chosen to be reincarnated into human form – have infiltrated the highest levels of this alternate Elizabethan society, and if our heroes can’t stop them, then their plot to take over the kingdom will be unstoppable.

Being the third volume of a trilogy, The Prince of Lies plunges straight into the action with an assault on a Moroccan fortress to rescue an imprisoned skrayling. There are so many references to the characters and plots of the previous two volumes that it would be hard to follow if you were unfamiliar with the backstory. (Basically I’m telling you to go out and buy the first two before you read this one – go on, do it!) The action takes the heroic band from Morocco to the misty fens around Cambridge, via a London, which is troubled by the difficult succession following the death of the Queen. And finally to Mal and Sandy’s ancestral home in Derbyshire.

Mal and Coby are married now, and she has exchanged her boy’s clothes for the life of a wife of an Elizabethan gentleman. In a way this is a shame; while it reveals another side of Coby that we haven’t seen in the previous books, it feels like she’s been sidelined into the role of wife, mother and lady-in-waiting. She doesn’t get to show her true strength and courage until around two-thirds of the way into the book. Although when she does get to act, it’s with both guns blazing and in truly spectacular fashion, a lioness in defence of her son.

It’s hard to review the last volume of a trilogy without dropping spoilers, but I can say that this is as exciting and action-packed as the previous two volumes, and it picks up all the loose threads that were left hanging at the end of The Merchant of Dreams. The malevolent Olivia is back, this time disguised as a castrato singer in Princess Juliana’s court, bringing a neat symmetry to the end of the story as Coby sees through her disguise. And the plotting of the guiser who has taken the body of the young Prince Henry comes to the bloody fruition promised since the end of The Alchemist of Souls.

I highly recommend this book, but don’t start here. Start with The Alchemist of Souls and read them in order or you’ll be floundering. For those that have followed the series so far, this is a tight conclusion, the only disappointments being the sidelining of Coby, and the relative ease with which some of the more deadly guisers are dispatched. I was left satisfied with the ending, but not as blown away as I hoped to be.


By Hierath

Joanne Hall lives in Bristol, England, with her partner. She has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pen, and gave up a sensible (boring) job in insurance to be a full time writer, to the despair of her mother. She dabbled in music journalism, and enjoys going to gigs and the cinema, and reading. Her first three novels, which made up the New Kingdom Trilogy, were published by Epress Online. Since then she has had to move house to make more space for manuscripts. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies, including “Dark Spires” and “Future Bristol”, as well as a number of magazines. A collection of short stories, “The Feline Queen” was published by Wolfsinger Publications in April 2011. She is also the founder of Bristolcon, Bristol’s premiere (and only) Science Fiction convention. Her blog can be found at www.hierath.co.uk, and she’s always happy to hear from readers.

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