In this brilliant debut fantasy, a story of secrets, rebellion, and murder is shattering the Hollows, where magic costs memory to use, and only the son of the kingdom’s despised traitor holds the truth.
Michael is branded a traitor as a child because of the murder of the king’s nine-year-old son, by his father David Kingman. Ten years later on Michael lives a hardscrabble life, with his sister Gwen, performing crimes with his friends against minor royals in a weak attempt at striking back at the world that rejects him and his family.
In a world where memory is the coin that pays for magic, Michael knows something is there in the hot white emptiness of his mind. So when the opportunity arrives to get folded back into court, via the most politically dangerous member of the kingdom’s royal council, Michael takes it, desperate to find a way back to his past. He discovers a royal family that is spiraling into a self-serving dictatorship as gun-wielding rebels clash against magically trained militia.
What the truth holds is a set of shocking revelations that will completely change the Hollows, if Michael and his friends and family can survive long enough to see it.
"The Kingman family did not die with whimpers. History was shaped by our births and deaths, and whether I liked it or not, I would be no exception."
The Kingdom of Liars is the first book in the trilogy Legacy of the Mercenary King, and the debut of Nick Martell as an epic fantasy writer. In this novel, Martell paints a really intriguing world, the Hollows, that we will be discovering through the eyes of Michael Kingsman, using a first-person point of view, being Michael at the same time the main character and the narrator of his story.
Definitely being the son of a traitor is not an easy situation, and that's something Michael can assure you. Since his father was executed for the death of King Isaac's son, the Kingman siblings have been living with their foster parent, Angelo, in the Hollows. A previously considered noble family, which also has lost its mother, who is living in an asylum, deemed as Forgotten, whose memories will never be recovered. This is the story of Michael, and how he will try to restore the legacy of the Kingman family, a family whose paper in the story of the Kingdom has been acting as the counterpoint to the Royal power. At the same time, he needs to act fast enough to avoid the Rebel Emperor trying to overcome the power in the name of his family.
All these elements are central to the excellent novel written by Martell. It's not a secret that I love stories where the intrigues and the sibylline plots are a central part of the story; and in that regard, The Kingdom of Liars delivers. There are many characters, each one with their own objectives, trying to impose their law in this city; from Dark, the mysterious mercenary, who will become a key piece in the plot, to the Corrupt Prince, who I have to recognize has a certain charisma. Most of the characters that get implied in the story feel alive, realistic, and with plans that slowly get closer to realization out of the scenes.
The city where all the action is situated is also an excellent example of how making a world feel alive. Tension is growing in the streets, something that started with the execution of David Kingman; and the Rebel Emperor is capitalizing on it. The nightly adventures of Michael and his friends are the perfect excuse to show less recommended parts of the Hollows; and once we get to experiment with the Endless Waltz, is great to be able to see how the nobility behaves behind their doors.
The magic system is also a rare Avis among the possibilities. Fabrications are never explained in a too clear way, but we get to know that there is a cost to use them; power comes with a cost, in this case, your memories. If you make a mistake, you can end up being a Forgotten, person who has lost their memories; also, once we get to know how the relationship between nobility and Fabricators works, the possibility of having access to this power is not as attractive as you could think.
I found the ending a little bit too convenient to be fair, but honestly, I really enjoyed my time reading this novel. The Kingdom of Liars promises and delivers, starting what I hope is a great saga. If you liked ASOIF or The Name of the Wind, I think you should try reading The Legacy of the Mercenary King.
Nick Martell was born in Ontario, Canada before moving to the United States at age 7. After graduating high school on Long Island, he majored in Creative Writing at Pennysylvania’s Susquehanna University. He started writing novels regularly in fifth grade, and his debut novel, The Kingdom of Liars, sold when he was 23 years old. Currently, he lives outside Allentown.