The Knave of Secrets by Alex Livingston

Publishing 9th June 2022 by Rebellion Publishing

A twisty tale of magicians, con artists and card games, where secrets are traded and gambled like coin, for fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Mask of Mirrors.

Never stake more than you can afford to lose.

When failed magician turned cardsharp Valen Quinol is given the chance to play in the Forbearance Game—the invitation-only tournament where players gamble with secrets—he can’t resist. Or refuse, for that matter, according to the petty gangster sponsoring his seat at the table. Valen beats the man he was sent to play, and wins the most valuable secret ever staked in the history of the tournament.

Quinol’s hand is forced, he wins the secret and, despite passing it on as agreed, the lives of his family and friends are put in danger. Not only that, but the secret could cause war to break out. This was definitely not on the cards (sorry!) when he accepted the task.

He has to use all his cardsharp tricks, his unfinished, unrefined magic training and rely on the skills of his con artist wife and friends (the only family he has) to work out a way to stop the keepers of the secret killing anyone who learns the truth and prevent what looks like inevitable war breaking out. Not easy when he only has fragments of information and, unlike in the card games he is used to playing/fixing, cannot predict the other players’ next moves.

Livingston’s world building is creative and strong, based on a range of political goings on and that of unseen magic.

The world of gambling and card playing cons was an eye opener to me…so many tricks and tells. That Quinol is so good is evident in his reading of his friends when away from the casino tables.

The story is a slow burner to start with, as the scene is set with a lot of information about the characters and the backstory. However, once the secret is won, the action hots up. Telling the story via the point of view of several of the key characters works well and gives a rounded perspective.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that the “hero” was flawed and questioned his own motives and morals, whilst trying to protect the ones he loves.

One grumble…the blurb gives away too much of the storyline before you even start.

Thanks to Rebellion Publishing for the eARC as part of #TheWriteReads blog tour.