The Knave of Secrets, Review

by Benjamin Williams

Posted on 3rd May 2022

The Knave of Secrets, Review

The Knave of Secrets by Alex Livingston is a twisting tale of card sharps and con artists.

Valen, Tenerieve and Jaquemin are card sharps. They cheat and con card players to earn a living. Then Valen is invited to play t the Forbearance Game, where it isn't just money up for grabs, but precious and dangerous secrets. Don't have more than a few grand for betting? That's fine when you have a secret that's valued at a few grand. Unfortunately, Valen winning a particularly expensive secret makes himself and all his friends targets of those that want said secret. Badly enough to kill for it.

The Knave of Secrets

The story is told from a few perspectives allowing for more exploration into worldbuilding. It was a bit of a mixed bag though. Sometimes it took you away from an exciting part as it just jumps around, whereas other times it was interesting to see another perspective on how things were going and unravelling. Limiting the POVs to two or three characters could have been enough to still tell the same story, keeping the twists and turns and intrigue.


The end of each POV is broken up by some excerpts. Initially, it's about the different kinds of card games in this world. It didn't add much for me, but I'm certain that there are going to love these additions. There are also excerpts that are snippets from a book that I'm not entirely sure what the point was. And that's not a dig from me, it's just that it's not something I'm a fan of in general. Brandon Sanderson is my favourite author and my only criticism of his books is that chapters generally start with an excerpt from something else. I know that when read all together it adds to the worldbuilding, but snippets between chapters for me just get lost in the rest of the story. It's so little that it's forgotten by the time I read the next one.

It's a fairly complex story with some intriguing magic. There's nothing standout, but it's all well explained and I liked that when Valen, et al, didn't know how some magical acts were done, they thought it through to try and work it out instead of having the story just move on. Little bits like that added more to the characters and that they couldn't always work it out adds a bit of realism.

There are a few chapters of backstory also, which didn't do much for me. They slowed the story down and I didn't feel like they added anything that made me think they were essential. I'm sure there's a good reason for them, but I feel like it would have been better to skip these and put more into the plot or expand on particular chapters. Sometimes a bit of backstory is a great thin but that doesn't mean it's always needed. There's enough of the plot and world that adding a backstory ended up taking you away from everything that was actually doing what the backstory was meant to.

The Knave of Secrets is certainly interesting enough. If there is going to be more, I'm interested. Some of the characters are really enjoyable and the storytelling is done well. Sure, there are parts that fell flat and some parts that I could have done without. Parts that could have been better spent expanding on the now instead of the past. There's a lot to explore in this world though and I'd be interested in seeing what that is, and it is a shame that I don't feel like I got enough of that with this book.

Rating: 3.5/5