A Restless Truth, by Freya Marske, is the second in the historical fantasy series that began with A Marvellous Light. As someone who read and loved the first book, this sequel MORE than met my high expectations, with its story of murder, mystery, romance, and magic.
If you haven’t already read A Marvellous Light, I’d recommend reading that first— in addition to providing a ton of context for this book, it’s great on its own! The background knowledge is definitely needed to really enjoy the twists and turns of this one. If you read it a while ago, I don’t think a reread is necessary, as Marske efficiently reviews the background plot and lore in a way that doesn’t seem forced. That’s the advantage to having characters at different levels of knowledge!
A Restless Truth takes two of my favorite characters from Light- Maud Blyth, last seen as the plucky little sister of Robin who wanted to go to college, and Lord Hawthorne, the abrasive former magician (and former lover of Edwin) who was sailing to America— traps them on a boat, and lets them cause the maximum amount of havoc. Maud is the star, setting out on a clandestine mission to help in Robin and Edwin’s quest to obtain and protect the pieces of the Last Contract. Not much time has passed since we last saw her, but she’s a little more mature than the girl we saw last time. She’s fiercely independent, with a firm sense of justice, and her determination to carry out her mission is impressive…even if she gets so distracted by a certain beautiful woman that she spills her own drink on herself the first time she sees her.
Said beautiful woman and co-lead is Violet Debenham, a daughter of privilege who ran away from her magical family, intentionally ruined her reputation, and found a new life on the American stage. Violet’s more experienced in life and love, and Maud’s determination and forthrightness play really well against that. Their romance is electric and fun, and the heightened stakes of being trapped on a boat mid-murder investigation makes every scene better.
The way that this book built on the world that had been set up in the first one was absolutely fantastic! A Marvellous Light revealed that while England has a regimented, “cradle” based magic system, there’s much more going on behind the surface, with possibilities that few have explored. A Restless Truth takes that and runs with it, bringing in multiple other ways of doing magic. Violet’s usage of the American style, with reliance on rings of different materials, was interesting, as were the types of spells she used. It was really cool to see the wide range she knew, from spells used in the morning to settle her hair into her favorite style or unwrinkle her clothes to gorgeous illusion spells learned from her work in the theater. The magical world in this series is so wide and varied, and getting to see a lot of it via Maud’s non-magical eyes makes it all seem even more impressive.
This book also reveals more of the origins of the Forsythia Club, a group of women who united to secretly expand the boundaries of magic and who discovered the pieces of the Contract— and who hid them. We had some tantalizing hints of their abilities through Flora in A Marvellous Light, but this book introduces us to the other three members of the group, details their different magical specialties, and traces how things ended up in such a mess. I won’t share anything else about it here, but I cannot WAIT to see if the next book reveals more.
Overall, this book was a great time— it fully succeeds as a murder mystery and a romance. I definitely recommend it to anyone who read the first in the series, and if you haven’t read that, this is the perfect time to jump in and read them both.
A Restless Truth by Freya Marske is out now and available for purchase at your local independent bookstore or wherever fine books are sold.
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