☩Title: The Prince of Lies (Night’s Masque #3)
☩Author: Anne Lyle
☩Publisher: Angry Robot
☩Publication date: 29th Oct – 7th Nov 2013 (US/UK)
☩Rating: ★★★ （ー△ー；）
In this final installment of Night’s Masque I’m not sure what I was hoping for, but I’m not entirely sure I got it. There’s nothing strictly wrong with Anne Lyle’s final book with Mal and Ned: it offers a satisfying end and therefore a good and solid end to the series. I’m just not sure it worked as well as it could have for me.
Things are coming to a head in London and the guisers are gaining power, getting closer to the throne. Mal has been given a Knighthood, Coby and he are married and are raising the young boy into which Kiiren has been reborn. But for now, Kit is just a child and Mal and his new wife are raising him as their own.
Despite thinking Olivia in the hands of Hennaq and being transported back to the New World, the contrary is true and the guiser is, secretly, heading back to London to plot her revenge on Mal. He had better be careful. Especially since Kit, too, is technically a guiser—albeit a young one—and he may prove to be a target if ever his memories show through.
Still, Mal is trying to be happy, adjusting to a life where Sandy has been returned to health, his new wife loves him with all her heart, and the death of Sir Francis Walsingham has left him with very little to do as a spy for the moment. Presently, Mal is attending court and doing all the things that a recently knighted man should be doing.
But nothing is really as perfect as it seems and memories from their time in Venice still haunt them, in particular Ned, whose metal hand is now a constant reminder and the reason his old profession was put paid to. Now he runs a print shop and tries to get by, whilst his lover, Gabriel (yay, #TeamGabriel) continues acting and trying his hand at playwriting—though he still prefers the former.
And Sandy isn’t really Sandy—and Mal knows it. Despite wanting his brother back and whole, Mal knows that as long as Sandy is Erishen, he will never be his brother. Then there’s the matter, of course, of the soul of Erishen that resides still within him. Sooner or later, the soul of the skrayling will need to be re-joined, whatever that might mean for the Catlyn twins.
Of course, there are more pressing matters at hand.
The guisers’ leader, Jathekkil, reincarnated into the body of young Prince Henry Tudor, is part of a plan set in motion far before Mal and his friends were ever involved. Though Mal might think that their enemies are young and weak and that now is the time to strike, he couldn’t be more wrong. The last renegade skraylings will not give up without a fight and with the barrier between the dream world and the waking world wearing thinner over time, victory is not assured.
In this last adventure, lives are in peril and for the first time, contacts and espionage will not save the day. With court life proving a challenge for Coby and tensions rising between her and Mal, several boats are being rocked, and one of them is the throne of England. The guisers want it—and it is now within reach.
The story takes place over a number of years and this somehow turned me off. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to how the time passed and this felt awkward and very unbalanced. In places the narrative seemed heavy and sometimes even irrelevant to the larger story, whilst relevant parts of the story were skimmed over so quickly as to be rendered unexciting.
I didn’t think I would end up saying this, but the finale of Lyle’s trilogy was bland and boring. I wanted to get excited, but just couldn’t. The new POV narrative of Kit bored me greatly and I desperately wanted to see more of Mal or Coby, or Ned or Gabriel. Anyone, really.
I felt the passage of time was handled inexpertly and I found it difficult to follow and this began to disinterest me. I appreciate what Lyle was trying to do, in making the final book far more reliant on intrigue and mystery and indeed, discovering who the remaining guisers are, but I feel the bar was set and never reached. I love intrigue and mystery and felt there was none. The Prince of Lies should have been a book where the reader sits glued to the page, following the team through the pages as they work to discover and eliminate the enemy, restricted by the false niceties of court and of moving below the guisers’ radar. It should have been thrilling and tense. Instead it was… not.
I got halfway through when I realised that I was, in fact, bored. I tried to pretend otherwise because I adore Lyle and I adore her work. But there’s only so much of the awkward march of time and lacking narrative that I could take.
The prose is still true to the excellent standard I’ve come to expect and love from Lyle and her characters remain true to themselves. I did feel that some of the rapport was missing, however, and that made me sad. Part of why Mal and co. work so well is their rapport.
This isn’t a bad book, just somewhat disappointing. The writing is tight, the plot is tight and Lyle’s touch is still evident. It doesn’t lack heart.
Mostly I was frustrated by this book, because I was expecting the five-star excellence that I’ve come to love from the Night’s Masque trilogy. This is a good book, with the same characters I love and the same Elizabethan/Tudor (is it Tudor by the end?) setting that has Lyle’s personal touch. It is well-written and suggested a complex plot that wound through a web of secrets, lies and intrigue towards its goal. It did reach its goal and the ending is enormously satisfying, but the execution fell short of my expectations.
Generally disappointed, but still a solid fan of Anne Lyle. Desperately want news of more from her.