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In this brilliant debut fantasy, a story of secrets, rebellion, and murder are 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.

596 pages, Hardcover

First published May 20, 2020

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About the author

Nick Martell

5 books299 followers
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. Follow Nick on Twitter, @macmartell or at nickmartell.com

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 515 reviews
Profile Image for Petrik.
688 reviews46.1k followers
August 15, 2020
ARC provided by the publisher—Saga Press—in exchange for an honest review.

The Kingdom of Liars is a solid debut that’s quite challenging to get through at first, but the second half offers rewarding experience to those who read the novel to its completion.

Similar to many cases with debuts by an unknown author in the past, my interest to read The Kingdom of Liars, the first book in The Legacy of The Mercenary Kings series by Nick Martell, was sparked due to the gorgeous cover art by Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme (US edition) and Richard Anderson (UK edition). Additionally, both Brandon Sanderson and James Islington—two authors whose works I immensely loved—gave high praise to this debut. How could I even resist reading this book!?

“It’s the long con that wins in the end, Michael. The people who do things worth remembering are the ones willing to wait decades to achieve it.”

The story in The Kingdom of Liars begins with the main character, Michael Kingman, being held on a trial for the death of a king. The story in this novel follows Michael narrating his journey that leads to his current predicament. If you want to find out more regarding the premise, read the official synopsis. The Kingdom of Liars is a book that’s filled with politics and mysteries; Martell did a great job in blending all of these elements to tell a story with themes of legacy, family, loyalty, power, responsibilities, and memories at its core.

“But the problem is, the older you become, the more you discover that memories change on their own. Some fade away, some stories change slightly, and some memories are so drastically different a decade after they occurred that no one can be quite sure what the truth is.”

I would recommend this book to many fantasy readers that love reading elements of mystery and many traversals of politics in their reads. I do, however, can only recommend this book safely by giving a warning, and that is this book needed some patience to go through. Why? Here’s the thing, the main character, Michael, throughout the entire first half of the novel was utterly irritating and infuriating. He’s naïve, cocky, selfish, and he repeatedly made stupid decisions. Plus, this is a book told solely through his POV in first-person narration; there’s no other character’s perspective to give the reader a break from his narrative, and that can get very testing at times. I won’t lie, there were several moments in the first half of the book where I almost gave up, and I imagine several readers would. If you have enough patience, know that his behavior felt deliberately done; heck one of the side characters even mentioned it to him blatantly right on his face. But is it worth continuing? Yes, I’ll say so. The second half displayed magnificent storytelling strength with a barrage of revelations that gave valid reasons why Michael behaved the way he did; I grew to feel empathetic towards him. Michael is a super flawed character, and it helped strengthen the narrative. I read through the entirety of the second half within a single day; I was captivated by the revelations, character development, and the way everything clicked together.

“One day you’ll understand there is more to life than the Kingman legacy. It’ll probably take a woman and a child to teach you that, but one day you’ll understand.”

World-building wise, I feel like Martell has only just begun. There are still many aspects of the world and history that’s still unexplained. Same as Michael, we readers know nothing about what’s going on outside the main city where the story takes place. I loved reading how the overuse of Fabrications—the magic system of this series—has the capability to cause its user a memory loss. Fabrications come in many forms, mostly based on elemental magic such as fire fabrications, lightning fabrications, metal fabrications, and darkness fabrications. Again, same as the world-building, there’s still a lot of potential in the sequel for the magic system to enhanced the overall strength of the series itself extensively, but for now, what I’ve read in the first installment was enough to keep me satisfied. In the end, the main feature in The Kingdom of Liars for me was the mysteries and how Martell was able to unravel them satisfyingly with an engaging and very compelling writing style. Even when I found the main character to be intolerable, or when the story was moving a bit too slow, I was able to push through because the dialogues and the writing were gripping.

“We love despite a person’s flaws, no their lack thereof.”

The Kingdom of Liars is an enthralling debut that melded intriguing mysteries, shocking revelations, costly magic, and deeply strong familial theme into its narrative. The first half of the book may require some patience to get through, but the second half made the journey rewarding. It even shed a better light on the parts that didn’t work for me at first. There’s no cliffhanger ending here; the book would’ve worked well as a standalone should the author decided to go on a different path. I look forward to the next book in the series.

Official release date: 7th May 2020 (UK) and 5th May 2020 (US)

You can pre-order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository (Free shipping)

The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions

Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!

My Patrons: Alfred, Devin, Hamad, Joie, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas.
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
317 reviews1,342 followers
March 17, 2020
I received an uncorrected proof copy of The Kingdom of Liars in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Nick Martell and Gollancz for the opportunity.

The Kingdom of Liars, the first entry in The Legacy of the Mercenary King series, is the tale of Michael Kingman. He relays his story to us regarding the events that led him to be on trial as a King Killer, which he rather melodramatically refers to as "the greatest story ever told." Ten years prior to this, Michael's father was also tried for regicide and he was executed. He murdered a Prince who was the son of the King that Michael is accused of assassinating. We find out much more about these events throughout the narrative and if/how they are related.

The Kingdom of Liars is told from Michael's first-person point of view perspective. We get to witness the city of Hollow as it is described by the narrator. As a Kingman - who have for generations acted as Right-Hand Men for the monarchs - Michael has the weight of his family's name and legacy on his shoulders. This has been made even more complicated as his family were branded traitors following his father's actions. Michael currently lives a mundane, dull existence. When not looking after his brain-addled mother he cons Low Nobels for whatever profit he can. Towards the beginning of The Kingdom of Liars, Michael crosses paths with two unique and eccentric individuals. An alcoholic yet extremely influential High Noble and a mysterious magic-wielding mercenary. He is offered opportunities to help his family live a stress-free life, and a possibility to investigate the details of his father's crime to see if he was innocent. Family and Legacy are the most important things to a Kingman.

The magic scheme presented here seemed pretty unique and interesting to learn about. Magic users are referred to as Fabricators. These skills tend to be found in the Royal or the Noble classes. There are many different types including combat, reinforcer, lightning, light, dark, shadow etc... The cost of using these powers is that the wielder will forfeit certain memories. Many magic users keep journals for this reason. Mages who overindulge can become Forgotten. These are zombie-like beings who are hollow shells of their former selves. Although he is uninitiated with his magical abilities, Michael himself has moments when he can't remember certain details or recall someone who insists that he knows them.

The time of the monarchy is shaky at best here as there is an open rebellion taking place in Hollow. Political unrest is rife. The Queen-in-Waiting is notably absent from court and the Corrupt Prince lives up to his name and has made it no secret he wishes to succeed his father. There are many factions, ranks and organisations in the city such as advocators, ravens, wardens, skeletons, and also mercenaries who are a law to themselves. The world-building is good and Hollow is well-crafted. I'd like to visit more of the world in the following entries as other cities are only briefly mentioned.

The Kingdom of Liars is a pretty impressive debut release. It's an exciting, action-focused fantasy thriller with intriguing mystery elements included too. Some of the characters were really well realised and great to find out more about. A few, however, don't seem adequately fleshed out, but hopefully, this will change going forwards. The finale is stunning and I raced through the last eighty or so pages at a manic could-not-put-the-book-down pace. I didn't predict the outcome, twists, or resolutions at all which is always a plus. It was only during the final few pages that I realised why the series is called The Legacy of the Mercenary King. At the ending, it's fully revealed who the heroes and the villains are and I'm interested in what will happen next. There are some grand possibilities for this as a series and fine foundations have been set. The Kingdom of Liars isn't perfect, a lot of what is here you'd have read before but it is an enjoyable take on the genre and I flew through the 600 pages in a handful of days. Martell is an author whose career I'll be watching.
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,048 reviews1,384 followers
August 14, 2020
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷

“We’re all selfish monsters— the only difference is some of us are more honest about it than others.”

I think my review will be short, My friend Chan wrote a review that perfectly sums up my thoughts and feelings about this book and I think she did it better than I can so feel free to check it out here.

Sometimes I am drawn to a book because of the nice cover, sometimes the synopsis and rarely by the blurb. This book had all 3 elements and a blurb by Sanderson certainly pushed it up on my tbr. I think I had high expectations which made the whole experience underwhelming. I am nit saying it is a bad book but I simply wanted more.

The characters were okay and I already forgot most of them to be honest. I thought the Michael was a tortured soul who made poor decisions and was blinded by his desire to take revenge. I can understand him and sympathize with him but at the same time, I wanted him to be more rational and to like him more. I may have ended up liking his development toward the end but overall the characterization was not the strongest element in the story.

The world-building was very basic compared to what I had in mind and we only got glimpses of the world. My guess is that it will be expanded in the future books but I wanted an epic magical system, I wanted the moon on the cover to have a bigger role, I wanted a world that stays with me and as I said above, my expectations and the reality collided in a not very good way.

The last thing that I thought would be different is the plot, I expected more action, more magic, more drama but it turned out to be more on the mystery side and with a focus on the characterization which is fair enough for a debut!

“A name does not make the man, just like a lie does not tell the full story.”

Summary: I take most of the blame for liking this less than expected owing to my skyrocket expectations of this debut. I guess all the elements were okay to good but I wanted more from such a hyped debut. At this point and honestly, I forgot most of the details and I am not sure if I am continuing the series. I will do what we call watchful waiting in medicine, where I will see what other readers think of the series before taking my final decision.

You can get more books from Book Depository
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
737 reviews1,262 followers
June 3, 2020
[2.5/5 stars] Kingdom of Liars had some good ideas and a wicked cool atmosphere, but the story itself lacked a bit of logical structure and flow.

The atmosphere created, with a shattered moon that periodically rained down on the city, combined well with both the contrasting lifestyles of the different casts of people and the general air of magic and mayhem, was superb! Easily my favorite element of the story. Even during parts I wasn’t totally sure I was onboard with, I kept reading to see what the world building and society would reveal next. I can say I’ve never read anything quite like this book, and that’s a mark in its favor.

It also included an interesting magic system, but almost as an afterthought. The excerpt and title lead you to believe the characters would face a constant battle between practicing magic and losing memory, but unfortunately all of it happened on the periphery. There wasn’t even a really clear description of how it worked, save a few passing conversations, so it’s definitely the component most primed for expansion in the sequel.

But overall, if I could describe Kingdom of Liars in one word, it would be: contrived.

The second would be disjointed. Most of the reviews I’ve seen state the beginning is slow, but the second half really picks up, making the whole book worthwhile. I can see why they claim this – all of the fun “reveals” take place in the second half… but my personal experience was the opposite. I loved the atmosphere and the concept right out of the gate (and the KILLER prologue), but the longer the story went, the more I became dissatisfied with the trajectory. The plot was all over the place, jumping from event to event without a really solid through-line. I tend to prefer more structure in storytelling; a more natural-feeling flow of events. Because of the first chapter, I knew it was working towards a clear objective, but there were several conversations and tangents that felt unnecessary and didn’t seem to fit within the framework. It was very forced. And because it was forced, it made the main character make so many odd decisions that he came off erratic and impulsive. His wild decisions always defied logic!!! And yet somehow they always worked out… because they were constructed to… and that’s the problem. He never felt like a real person, he felt like a vehicle to advance plot.

Even so, the story did have a bunch of good payoffs, and I did enjoy the writing behind it. Despite my objections to the story construction, the basic writing and conveying of ideas was great, reminding me of the conversational approach Sebastien de Castell uses in his stories (minus the over-the-top flippancy). I’d love to see what this author can do off the cuff, because in this case the plot seemed so tortured and overworked that I didn’t spend as much time enjoying the writing as I would have liked.

Recommendations: Kingdom of Liars, despite having a unique atmosphere and a cool concept, was a bit too contrived for my tastes. If you don’t mind adopting a more “just go with it” attitude, it’ll definitely offer you a memorable story. I can honestly say I’ve never read anything quite like it…

I’d like to thank Gallery Books and Nick Martell for the chance to read an early copy of Kingdom of Liars!

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.NikiHawkes.com

Other books you might like:
Traitor's Blade (Greatcoats, #1) by Sebastien de Castell A Shadow in Summer (Long Price Quartet, #1) by Daniel Abraham An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (The Risen Kingdoms, #1) by Curtis Craddock Kushiel's Dart (Phèdre's Trilogy, #1) by Jacqueline Carey The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) by Patrick Rothfuss
Profile Image for William Gwynne.
376 reviews1,708 followers
March 29, 2021
Before I get into my review, here is a link to my relatively new booktube, where my brother and I discuss all things books. The Brothers Gwynne

Nick Martell has formed a tale of engaging political intrigue, with compelling characters, and a smooth narrative voice. I listened to this on Audible, and the story was brilliantly performed by Joe Jameson, who I will definitely be looking out for in the future.

So, overall I really enjoyed this. It is a cyclical story, so we start at the end, in which many questions are raised to keep an eye out whilst powering through the rest of the story. It got off to a good start for sure, but then I would really say that it took off beyond the halfway mark. That is where I was hooked.

“Wise men fear more than the axe”

Something I really enjoyed in The Kingdom of Liars were some of the themes that Nick Martell explored. I think we have all read about tales of vengeance and politics and ambition, and whilst these were handled well, I really enjoyed the focus on ideas such as legacy. I thought that this is something not explored enough in other works, and I think that The Kingdom of Liars offers a very interesting perspective on how legacy and duty can weigh heavily, yet simultaneously motivate and spur one to great things.

Definitely one of the strengths of this story were the characters. There is a great range of interesting male and female characters, from all backgrounds and circumstances, from high nobles, to those in a resistance. We are thrown into a city torn by strife by conflict between the Royals and the Resistance, the latter of which wishes to restore more power to the people, but loses support due to its violent, murderous approach that causes the death of many citizens.

“Are you a Kingman or a coward?”

We begin with Michael Kingman being sentenced to death for murdering the king, and then go back in time to discover how our central protagonist got into this unfavourable circumstance. He is part of a disgraced family, who used to be the ruler’s councillor and representative of the people, before Michael’s father killed the prince. Now, stuck in poverty, he takes a different approach than his siblings, and attempts to regain the family position, but does not know what he is getting himself into. In this pursuit, Michael engages with twisty-turny political interactions and intrigue and mystery that culminates in a satisfying resolution near the end of the story.

So, The Kingdom of Liars is well-constructed, solid across the board, and most definitely a book that I enjoyed. I think that some of the plotting appeared a bit clunky early on, and that the first half was pretty slow at times, but trust me, it is worth it to get to the second half. Also, if you listen to Joe Jameson’s reading on Audible, it will be a great experience throughout. I look forward to reading the sequel!

4.25/5 STARS

To purchase The Kingdom of Liars with 10% off, use the discount code TBGWYNNE7 at The Broken Binding. Link here
Profile Image for Nils | nilsreviewsit.
332 reviews509 followers
January 10, 2020
‘Dying wasn’t new to me. I had an understanding that it would come for us all one day; all that differed was the time. It was oddly comforting in a way. It was the only time nobles, Royals, and commoners were the same. We all walked into the darkness in the end, meeting whatever waited for us. There were some days that I thought it would be the only time in my life I would be at peace.’

The Kingdom of Liars is the upcoming debut by Nick Martell. This is one book that certainly starts off with a bang as the story begins with Michael Kingman, our main protagonist, on trial for the murder of the King. What a way to start a story! I mean if that doesn’t hook a reader in, I don’t know what will! As the narrative unfolds we slowly begin to discover what has brought Michael to this point, we learn about his family’s reputation as traitors, and we are presented with a world where magic comes at a terrible cost.

From the opening chapter we are thrown into the middle of events. Much has happened in the land of Hollow; a once thriving place where a variety of citizens could live prosperously is now teetering on ruination. An all out rebellion is hatching, caused by the oppressive High Nobles and the Royalty’s rule, turning the people against them. At the centre of it all lies the Kingman family; protectors of the royal line, a once highly respected influential Noble name, that is now a disgrace. Michael’s father had been executed for the murder of the King’s son, and Michael seems to be following in his father’s wake. All is not as it seems though, and in a world where history can be forgotten and retold, can Michael uncover the truth to save not only himself from execution but also save his family’s legacy?

Now, I’m quite fond of books that blend genres, I think they can add an abundance of depth to a story. So I found myself highly impressed by the way Martell blended fantasy with the crime/thriller genre; it made for such a compelling story. This was much in the fashion of RJ Barker in his Wounded Kingdom trilogy; Martell even uses a first person narration, as Barker did too, and I think this worked perfectly to
thoroughly immerse the reader into the world and mystery. Throughout, we follow Michael as he picks up pieces to the puzzle surrounding his father’s supposed treason. We are right with him, making conclusions of our own, and facing a few jaw dropping twists along the way. This is a book that develops at break-neck speed, and leaves you continuously wanting more.

Honestly though, it did take me a while to warm to Michael. At first I found his character to be overly naive, even for his age, and he had a cocky air about him which, for me personally, made him slightly frustrating. Michael was a con artist; he’s shown cheating nobles in order to earn coin, having lost his families wealth after the execution of his father, this acts as his small scale revenge. During these beginning chapters, I found Michael was slightly over emotive at times, and rather impulsive. However as the story takes a dark turn, and Michael finally starts to see the bigger picture, when he realises that every action he takes could cost his family dearly, and when he recognises that he is the con artist who is being conned, well that’s when we see Michael naturally grow and truly shine. Martell, really won me over with Michael’s character arc, because by the end, I wholly admired him.
‘We’re all selfish monsters—the only difference is some of us are more honest about it than others.’
The Kingdom of Liars also includes a varied cast of characters, and I really enjoyed the way Martell built them all up; for good or ill he allowed each of them to come to life. The ones that most stood out to me were Kai, who was a blind, high noble friend to Michael, then there was Michael’s mother, who suffered memory loss, akin to Alzheimer’s disease, and notably many other characters represented different races and class. I feel this is definitely a novel that illustrates the dangers of privileged elitism, prejudices, and an overbearing government, which gravely mirrors some of the issues we still face today.

I also believe one of the significant strengths of this novel lies in the magic system. In the first few chapters Martell throws us into the deep end as we are presented with a host of magic users, with very little explanation as to what their powers entailed. Again, I found this so compelling, I wanted to know so much more, and as the story developed, this was surely delivered. To briefly explain, within the book there are characters who are known as light, air, fire and even metal Fabricators, who wield their specific power. I don’t wish to divulge too much here, so what I’ll just say is that I was most impressed with the consequence each character faced should they over use their power. You see, uncontrolled use of Fabrications, or overuse could potentially lead to becoming a Forgotten: this is where piece by piece your memory is either partially or wholly wiped. Consequently, the central theme in the book is that of memories, and leaving a legacy which can never be erased; but what I loved the most was the concept of surviving in a world where even your own memories are fleeting and not to be trusted. How do you ever know what the truth is?

So, at its heart The Kingdom of Liars is a tale of family, loyalty and leaving a legacy that none shall forget. This is certainly a book that you won’t be able to put down, and will linger with you long after you’ve read the last page.

ARC provided by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review. All quotes used are taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. The Kingdom of Liars is out 7th May 2020.
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,483 reviews79.1k followers
March 19, 2020
I'm between 3-3.5 stars on this one, due to the painfully slow first half followed by an incredible second act. While I do not claim to be the resident expert on fantasy novels of any kind, I feel like I have read enough at this point to have a general understanding of the various tropes and sub-genres that are popular. That said, I initially requested this book for 2 reasons: 1) I'm really enjoying reading more adult fantasy than YA fantasy this year and 2) Brandon Sanderson blurbed it, so DUH. What it really comes down to is, this is a long book, and the first half of the story basically shows us what a turd burglar Michael is before coming into his own in the second half. I could not stand our main character for the first 40-50% of the novel. If I had been able to connect on a more personal level with him during this time, this book might have been an easy 5 stars, as the second half is SO GOOD. SO GOOD! If you enjoy the type of fantasy novel that involves patience, mystery, and political intrigue, I highly recommend giving The Kingdom of Liars a try for yourself. I'm tickled silly waiting for the next installment, and now that the plot is going, I anticipate a much higher rating on my end for the sequel.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
Profile Image for Deborah Obida.
681 reviews620 followers
September 30, 2020
Buddy read with Mary Ann

Kingdom of Liars is a hard book to rate, I like it but I doubt I'll continue the series, I wasn't blown away.

This book follows Michael Kingman who is on trial for killing the king, he's either eighteen or twenty, the author kept going back and forth between the two ages. The book is written in Michael's first person POV, he narrated what happened to him and how he got to be in that position.

But sometimes it’s important to remember that you are mortal and that some goodbyes are forever. Even if they weren’t meant to be.

His narrative also has flashbacks to when he was a child, I don't like that kind of plotline, it ruins lots of things, I'd rather the story start from the beginning, not the ending.

I don't like Michael most of the time, he always makes stupid decisions and mistakes. Most of the time he acts like a child.

“All I’ve ever seen you do is make a stupid choice, complain about it, feel bad about it until whatever you want gets dangled in your face, and then go after it again to repeat the cycle.”
“That won’t happen anymore.”
“It’ll happen again and again because you keep acting like a child. For once in your life, make a decision and stick to it. Wavering back and forth like this is useless. All you’re doing is ruining the lives of everyone around you.”

Kai is my favourite character, I like Gwen and Lyon, despite all they have been through they still made a life for themselves.

The world building is below average, it needs major improvement. Especially the magic system, it wasn't well depicted.

The politics and the mystery element was well depicted but I don't fancy that in fantasy.
Profile Image for James Islington.
Author 8 books5,159 followers
February 18, 2020
More a quick recommendation than a proper review, but this is another debut I’ve enjoyed recently! I initially gave The Kingdom of Liars a shot because the core concept (memory as a cost for using magic) sounded fascinating, and while that didn’t play out exactly as I expected—it’s a more a danger for those who overuse their magic, rather than an everyday cost—it’s still used to good effect, and the smartly plotted story was more than enough to keep me engaged. There’s great worldbuilding, characters who are flawed but interesting, and an intriguing central mystery that’s gradually (and satisfyingly) untangled. All in all, a fast-paced fantasy that has the potential to become an excellent series!
Profile Image for Athena (OneReadingNurse).
734 reviews106 followers
May 7, 2020
Title: Kingdom of Liars

Author: Nick Martell

Pub: Simon & Schuster

Length: 608p

Release: May 5th 2020 (I thought there was a new date but it is available on Amazon now)

Rating & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ maybe

Thank you to Bookish First and Simon & Schuster for my ARC of The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell.  Book was claimed in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are my own!

So there is obviously a lot going on in the book, and it is a whopper at 608 pages.  The book is told in first person, as Michael relates his story to a certain Archivist before his execution.

This is fantasy, so lets start with the world building.  My biggest gripe with the book was a certain lack thereof, despite the length.  Words like Tweeker, Skeleton, Sacrifice, the entire political and military structure, religion, and even the purpose of the Kingmans are thrown out in name or title but never elaborated on.  It makes sense to a certain point since Michael wouldn't have explained things to the Archivist that he already knew, but I don't think these explanations would have hurt the story.

The action and pacing is decent. The plot starts out a little slowly then picks up around the half way point, holding my attention until the end.  There was enough action throughout to keep me fairly interested - immersion is where the book struggles.  Guns are a big controversy in fantasy novels but I can understand how the non magical countries developed firearms to level battle fields against the fabricators REAL quick, although foreign wars weren't the focus. In fact the entire plot only takes place over a few days. I like a good bit of political maneuvering in the plot too but readers didn't see it; another character was facilitating things off page.

Besides the guns, the language and names hurt immersion a LOT.  Come on, Treyvon and Jamal, dark colored guys from the wrong side of the river turning into disillusioned villains?   Bring down the nobility! Also most of the character names were decidedly American.  In a world with magic wielders and broken, prophetic moons, the swearing is an issue too - a great fantasy world will invent it's own slang, but Martell settled for the nine thousand uses of the "F word".  The only swear/curse in Hollow is apparently the F word, and that's just not good in high fantasy. The lack of world building specifics also hurt immersion, as described above it just hurts the story when I don't know what is being talked about and have to try to guess.

The most well described bit of the world was probably the Royals vs high vs low nobles vs those in poverty, but only in the sense of rich vs poor and poverty.  Actually that might be a lie too because no one seemed to really support or care about the rebels, so I don't know what's going on with the mood of the city other than that the poor are poor and the rich are rich, and most not rich people are afraid.

Speaking of nobles with power and rich vs poor pit workers ... The big elephant in the room is that Sanderson blurbed the book.  I am not a fan of his writing after reading Mistborn but I see similarities especially in the magic system - mostly that it's lazy.  Everyone gets one specialty (or rarely two) and they range from "light" to "dark" to "nullify" to "lightning" fabrications ... You get the idea.  The magic just happens too, it's innate and the nobles have to train to use it or they can destroy their memories.  Maybe Sanderson saw some of himself and his early writing in the book but I also wonder if he actually read it.

 Michael is so caught up in his family legacy that he's just stupid and near sighted, getting himself nearly killed frequently. He seems to have no concept of thinking things through.  He whines, changes his mind frequently, hurts people because he never thinks and has no backbone to carry out his plans, and I thought it was great when the Mercenary called him out.  So wrapped up in his own nonsense that he couldn't spot the mastermind enemy 😳. Even at the end Michael couldn't stop repeating the family broken legacy record.  Oh yeah I hate books that repeat themselves and he spent way too much time pining over his father and the legacy, we got it already.  This is an adult fantasy, we don't need the repetition.

Kai (blind) was my favorite character other than Dark, the mercenary.  I also liked Gwen, Michael's sister, for unexplained spoilery reasons, and Dawn. The title of the series, "The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings," makes sense only at the end when we have an idea where the series might go.  Really though if Kingdom of Liars is just a long introduction and exposition to Michael's story going forward, the world-building needed to be there.

Random bits: I thought I spotted a nod to Glen Cook's The Black Company, which is great if it wasn't coincidental.  I also like when Hanging Gardens hang people, not just flowers.

Honestly I will probably at least try to read the second book.  The new set of characters might be more interesting going forward and events should be taking place in the present.  I am at a solid ⭐⭐⭐ for this one, for poor immersion and lazy magic with enough action to keep me reading.  Would recommend for fans of Sanderson and lower/middle fantasy.
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,073 reviews2,634 followers
May 12, 2020
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2020/05/12/...

It’s probably no surprise that The Kingdom of Liars was one of my most highly anticipated releases of 2020, with a premise that promises magic, intrigue, and adventure. Although the novel does falter slightly at times, as debuts often do, I’m pleased to report that it exceeded my expectations and I found it to be an excellent and compelling read.

The protagonist of the story is Michael Kingman, son of the most notorious traitor the Hollows has ever seen. But while David Kingman was put to death for murdering the child prince nearly a decade ago, his wife and children are still suffering for his sins, scorned and mistrusted by their noble peers. Still, how far does the apple really fall from the tree? As the novel begins, Michael is being held prisoner, awaiting his trial and execution. His purported crime? For killing the king.

The story then flashes back to recent events as Michael begins to recount the harrowing journey which led to his arrest and current situation. It all started on the eve of the Endless Waltz, a long-standing tradition among Hollow nobility to present themselves and prove their worth. But for Michael, the event becomes an opportunity to rejoin high society and restore his family name. After all, the last ten years have been difficult the Kingmans. Michael himself barely survives off the money he makes as a petty con artist, while his sister Gwen works at the asylum, caring for their mind-addled mother. So when Michael is offered a well-paying job to be a chaperone for a heavy drinking, free-wheeling high noble named Charles Domet, he is forced to accept.

The older nobleman, however, is nothing like Michael expected. A talented Fabricator and adept at using magic, Domet agrees to teach Michael to develop his own fledgling skills while also sharing a secret piece of information our protagonist had long hoped for but never dared to believe—that his father, David Kingman, had been innocent and framed for his crime.

Over the years, I’ve read a great number of books involving unreliable narrators, but this one might be one of the most intriguing ways of handling the concept that I’ve ever seen. For one thing, have you ever thought about why this novel is called The Kingdom of Liars? Well, let’s put things this way—can you really trust someone to speak the truth, if they don’t remember it? Because that’s the crux behind the whole system of magic in the world of the Hollow. To use it costs memories, which means all experienced Fabricators have a way to help them remember the important details of their lives. However, our main character Michael Kingman’s abilities are just emerging, and with no telling when or how often he’s used his abilities, all we know is there are big gaps in his memories where he can’t recall certain details or remember someone who insists they’ve met before.

Not gonna lie, at times this made Michael and incredible frustrating protagonist. He bungles his way through his life, doing certain things while knowing full well he lacks the pertinent information to make good decisions. He’s also impulsive and easily manipulated, which made it difficult to sympathize with him when he inevitable does or says something stupid to get himself in trouble. That said, there’s a significant portion of this that is clearly done by design, and once we moved into the later parts of the story, that was when I gained a better understanding and appreciation for what author Nick Martell was trying to achieve with his character development.

The technical aspects of the novel were also impressive, if a bit raw. In many ways, The Kingdom of Liars reminded me very much of the early works by Brandon Sanderson, such as Elantris or Mistborn—just a tad unpolished and slightly rough around the edges, but the story and the concepts themselves are solid. Take the world-building, for example. Several major details shine through, most notably the idea of a crumbling moon whose pieces sometimes fall to earth and wreak havoc on the Hollow, but the larger picture still needs fleshing out, such as of how the society works or more clarification on the Fabrication system. There are also minor issues with the writing such as an overreliance on epic fantasy tropes, with the obvious one being the protagonist sharing his life story in flashback. And while Martell is cognizant enough of showing not telling, he often falls back on familiar clichés to do so, like the old hand-on-the-back-of-the-head/neck action to convey embarrassment or discomfort (a very anime thing to do, which is why I took notice of the several times this cropped up in the text).

But did any of these issues seriously affect my enjoyment or overall experience? Heck no. Most of the ones I pointed out aren’t so much complaints but rather observations or minor hiccups that need to be ironed out, and I have no doubt that they will with some time and experience. Nick Martell is poised to become a promising and inspiring powerhouse in the fantasy genre, and I look forward to reading more of his work for years to come.
Profile Image for Dave.
3,108 reviews353 followers
January 2, 2021
Martells’ “Kingdom Of Liars” is the first novel in a planned epic fantasy series, “Legacy of the Mercenary Kings.” It is a complex fantasy featuring a feudal court, a vicious rebellion, magical powers (fabrications), and court intrigue. The world-building is terrific, offering the reader a glimpse of a small corner of the universe, the Hollows, which despite the name which might lead you to think of forests and streams, is a feudal city of lords and ladies and a desperate underclass keyed up to rebellion. Except for a brief journey into the forest to slay a wyvern, a legendary two-footed dragon-like creature with a deadly barbed tail, all the action takes place in the city. There are various “keeps” and castles and cathedrals and mercenaries to keep the populace in line. And, there is an ancient moon in the sky breaking apart with its haunted pieces falling to the city, often causing havoc.

The “magic” really takes a backseat to the story here and that’s unfortunate because it’s a fascinating part of this world and should take a more central place in future volumes in the series. The “magic” is called “fabrications,” consisting of light fabrications, dark fabrications, metal fabrications and more. These powers are hereditary and almost solely possessed by the nobles. There is of course a cost to their use and perhaps this is why they are rarely used in the story.

The cost of using fabrications is memory loss. The consequence is that the royals and the nobles all suffer from memory gaps, gaps they try to fill in with stories, with truth, with decrees. It is not evident till far into the book that the use of fabrications has led to confusion and mystery and people who sometimes don’t remember each other.It isn’t until late in the story that the reader realizes how big an issue the reliability-of truth becomes.

This is particularly true when one finally understands that the main character from whose point of view the story is told, Michael Kingman, is very much an unreliable narrator. This is so, both because of the filling in of memory gaps, and his youthful coming-of-age. Michael Kingman is not the powerful warrior that usually is the main character in these fantasy gigs. Rather, he is an unlikely hero, who is unsure if himself, childlike, whiney, and easily manipulated. But, it is probably that he is just coming into his own skin, a nervous teenager growing up finally ten years after his father is tried and executed for murdering the king’s son. And now as our story begins Michael himself following in his father’s footsteps is in trial for murdering the king.

The Kingmans are a noble family, set to be juxtaposed to the Royals themselves, a counterweight to keep them in check. They are supposed to be loyal and the king’s confidants. But Michael, who is now a petty thief in the streets, has grown up these long years with the brand of traitor. He doesn’t know if he should join the rebellion or prove what he believes is his father’s innocence.

There are so many great dramatic elements here. However, as an epic fantasy read, it just misses being great and is a bit uneven. It would’ve helped to know better at the start what was at stake and where things were going. The story takes the reader in many different pathways of courtly intrigue and one often lost sight of where things were heading and why things were important. But fantasy works these days are very complex, no simple quests for the holy grail, no simple mission to throw a ring in a pit of fire in a world where it’s always clear who is good and who is evil.
Profile Image for Jeremy Szal.
Author 34 books264 followers
January 23, 2020
In my blurb for this book, I called it, "a richly rewarding fantasy that seethes with mysteries, fused with a mindscrew of a magic system". At the risk of becoming a self-quoting tosser: it really is that good.

You won't find dragons and oaths and tales of heroism here, not in the traditional sense. Here, the storytelling revolves around the idea that using magic makes you suffer from memory loss. As a result, the central narrative revolves around people lying and deceiving and misleading people, filling in the false blanks missing from their minds for their own benefit, altering the written word and oral history for some unseen agenda. It leans very heavily on Memento, and in many ways feels like a commentary on the nature of storytelling and memories, and how these are always subject to change and misdirection. It's this mystery that keeps the novel such an enjoyable read throughout. I would highly recommend this one.

Profile Image for Gavin.
886 reviews398 followers
May 13, 2020
Nick Martell's The Kingdom of Liars was an OK fantasy debut that recovered from a slow start to become an enjoyable tale despite its flaws. The story had a decent mix of action, intrigue, and mystery and the fantasy world and magic created by Matrell were fairly cool and interesting despite still feeling a little underdeveloped and vague.

This is the first fantasy debut I've tried in over two years after my batch of 2017 and 2018 fantasy debut attempts turned out to be so awful they killed my faith in the major fantasy publishers ability to spot new talent that was worth my time and money. I was in the mood for something fresh which is the reason I decided to give a recent debut a go. Kingdom of Liars ended up being my pick for a whole host of reasons. The first is the title, The Kingdom of Liars, it is cool and hints the story will be one that is packed full of intrigue and twists and turns. The second was the fact that both the UK and the US covers are fairly eye-catching and appealing. So far so good for the marketing department! The blurb was so-so but not unappealing. What helped tip the scales and made this book my whim pick was the fact that it popped up in the Audible new release list at the perfect time and the fact that my eye was caught by the fact that it was published by Gollancz. I've not read a ton of new fantasy authors from Gollancz since my switch to audio more than a decade back because Gollancz have been one of the shittiest publishers for getting their books to the audio market. Hopefully the fact that this popped up is a sign they are changing their ways and making more of an effort. 15-20 years ago Gollancz was my go-to publisher for fantasy debut books as I felt they had an eye for picking out stuff that was both fresh in ideas and high in quality so I was eager to see if that was still the case all these years later. Plus my book disastrous books from 2017 and 2018 were mostly from Orbit and Tor so it seemed smart to give another publisher a chance to impress me.

Did Kingdom of Liars live up to the promise of its cool title and pretty covers? Probably not but it was a decent read in the end and I felt like it was worth the time and money I spent on it. The story suffered from a slow start. It took me a while to warm to Michael Kingsman and a fair amount of time to make sense of the world Martell created and to get a grasp of who all the characters were in the early stages. Once I did get to grips with that stuff I found it easier to get sucked into the story and invested in the characters as people I was interested in reading about.

The premise of the story was good. This was a first person POV story and the tale we got was that of Michael Kingsman. Michael is the son of the most notorious traitor in the history of the city state of Hollow. His father murdered one of the Kings children. It was a betrayal of epic proportions as the King's most trusted friend and advisor murdered one of his young children! The King did not take the betrayal well and branded the whole Kingsman family with the traitor brand. Michael and his brother and sister grew up in with this burden upon them and it shaped the people they became. Michael is obsessed with clearing his family name and restoring himself and his siblings to the glory he feels he is due as a right due to his family's glorious legacy. It all goes wrong and the tale kicks off with Michael telling the story of how he came to be awaiting trial for killing the King! The old "protagonist telling a tale while awaiting execution" trope of a bit overdone and cliche for sure but I think Martell just about managed to make it work as this story was engaging enough once it got past the slow start.

It is hard to assess the worldbuilding. Both the world and magic were super cool and interesting but both felt a little underutilized and underdeveloped due to Martell's inability to make them more than cool, but very vague, elements within the story. The world was cool though! It had a bunch of moons and one was shattered and raining bits down on the planet. As if that was not cool enough the fragments of moon were highly valued and even came with cryptic but cool messages. The chatty lunar fragments played only a tiny role in this first book in the series but they held more than enough promise that I'm intrigued! The Hollow Court was filled with intrigue and a fairly interesting place despite having a few flaws in the logic that it was supposed to be built upon (for example the King, despite all his power, has trouble executing a few of his blatantly obvious enemies but the sadistic prince kills people all the time for shits and giggles and no one bats and eyelid. How does that make any sense?). Little beyond the walls of Hollow City was explored in this tale but we got a few hints that Hollow City was just one of many city states and that powerful independent mercenary companies were also power players in the region. It hinted that there could be fun external intrigue to be had on top of the fun internal intrigue we got in this first book. Again it all felt a bit vague and underdeveloped but there is no denying it was all interesting and cool. The magic was decent as well. In Hollow City the magic we got was that of fabrications. The magic, like most things was vaguely explained, but pretty intriguing. As far as I could tell the fabrications worked a lot like superpowers. We got people who could heal from wounds, people who could zap people with electricity, people who could manipulate light and darkness, people who could use some sort of metal magic to give themselves super strength and a bunch of other fun powers. I quite liked it even if nothing was really explained about how the magic actually worked. As an added twist the fabrication magic did come with a cost. The magic stole peoples memories so people who used too much power or who had poor training ended up destroying all their memories! It was a fun way to work the old amnesia trope into the story. I felt the potential was only hinted at rather than exploited with this aspect of the story but what we did get was still pretty enjoyable and the hints are there that things could get even more interesting in the sequels. On top of that it was mentioned that fabrications were only one of many types of magic used in this fantasy worlds and that other cities might have their own unique types of magic. The other part of the worldbuilding worth mentioning was the fact that this is flintlock fantasy. Guns were just starting to rival magic and that was causing the social issues one might expect considering the High Nobility of Hollow City has used their magic as the power to back their rule as magic is a thing that only the nobility seems to possess in this world. It it is another win for elitist inbreeding programs lol!

I think the biggest issue I had with this tale was Michael as a character and the general obsession with class and legacy that was intrinsic in the world and society Martell created. It took me ages to warm to Michael because he came across as a whiny elitist who spent all his time crying and whinging about the fact that his father tainted his great family name and cheated him and his siblings of the glory and acclaim they all deserved as their privileged due just for being born members of the Kingsman family. I honestly wanted to reach into the story and slap the fool every time he clawed for validation in the eyes of the people he claimed to hate. It was so annoying that I was tempted to DNF this in the first 20% to 25% of the story. I'm glad I pushed through as I think once the tale settled down a bit I managed to warm a bit to Michael and was able to root for him as he sought to clear his fathers name.

While I was reading this one I was constantly reminded of moments and things that made me think of Mark Lawrence and Sebastian de Castell's books. The world felt like something straight out of a Lawrence book and the story had that feel to it as well. The characters and writing reminded me a lot of what we got in de Castell's Greatcoats series. It took me a while to see it but by the end I was struck by how similar Michael was as a character to Falcio from Greatcoats. He is a mostly likeable guy with some notable flaws that is trying to redeem the name of his family and restore their tarnished legacy to its old glory. Just like Falcio, Micheal means well but is a complete idiot who makes piss poor decisions and misses blatantly obvious clues and just blunders around from one event to the next doing more damage than good to the poor fools that call him a friend. Why they called him friend was anyone's guess. He was not a bad guy but he did nothing but take from the poor fools in his life and offered little in return. Despite that it was hard to dislike him, legacy obsession and elitist attitude aside, as he mostly meant well and did seem to care for his friends but was just too stupid to realize the stuff he did was going to end up hurting them. The other element of the story that reminded me of de Castell was the writing. A lot of the happenings in the tale felt a bit contrived. Need someone to save the day by popping up out of nowhere? You have it! Need a twist out of nowhere? Lets villain or friend flip a character to fit the needs of the story! I know this is true for most tales but for some reason it was just not smoothly done by Martell so it stood out. I felt the exact same way while reading Greatcoats! Despite that it is not like Martell was a poor writer or storyteller. He spun a pretty engaging tale once it got going and I was definitely sucked into the story from time to time.

All in all this was a decent fantasy debut. It had a slow start and a bunch of flaws but was still entertaining and fun and held the promise that things could be better developed in the sequels. I'll definitely pick up the next book in this series.

Rating: 3.5 stars. I'm rounding up to 4 stars because despite all the flaws I've mentioned as a flat 3 star rating feels way to harsh for what we got in this book!

Audio Note: Joe Jameson did a good job with the audio. He is a decent narrator. Always takes me a bit of time to get used to him but once I do I enjoy his performance.

Profile Image for Abi (The Knights Who Say Book).
633 reviews95 followers
June 23, 2020
I wanted to give up 3% into my eArc of this book based on the bad writing, but I didn’t want an unfinished book dragging down my Netgalley record, so I persevered in the hopes that it would get better. It didn’t.

The characters are not fleshed out. There are quite a few of them—not more than a book could handle, mind you, so that’s not really an excuse—and none of them get enough focus for me to actually care about them. Michael is constantly telling you how much he cares about his friends and how taking care of them is all he cares about, but there’s only two scenes total that have any genuine sense of camaraderie or warmth. Otherwise, all you have to go on is his word as the narrator, or the stiff, hackneyed dialogue between him and these “friends.”

I did not prefer Michael to the other characters. Now, the story is cognizant of the fact that he’s kind of whiny and makes stupid decisions. He’s probably supposed to develop over time. But combined with the irritating writing style, I was never able to get invested in his development or enjoy reading about him. He is not fun or fascinating to dislike. He’s just annoying, and it’s not because he’s an “unlikeable character,” it’s because he’s badly written.

The writing style is to blame for everything. The dialogue falls short of either realism or cleverness. There’s nothing enjoyable about it or the descriptions of the setting. Actions are choppy and disconnected, dialogue is vaguely disjointed, and Michael’s reasoning never makes any sense.

My G-d, this book hates reasoning. It hates explaining things. It hates setting up literally anything in advance. Worldbuilding is done on the fly as things happen, never mentioned in advance (which is especially bad in a story with a central mystery, because you have no way to pick up clues when you don’t know basic things about how the magic works). And backstory is given on the fly too. If Michael has an enemy, for example, you find that out when he happens to run into that enemy, and not a moment before. It reads like a first draft, like nothing has been set up in advance because the author didn’t know this stuff either until he wrote it down just now.

This book needs another round of rewriting. It has, to be charitable, a few interesting worldbuilding concepts, and maybe one and a half good plot twists. With better writing, it could be more than a one star read. But as it stands now, I had to force myself through every chapter of this book, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
Profile Image for Nick Martell.
Author 5 books299 followers
June 29, 2020
First off, let me say right off the bat that I’m biased. I wrote THE KINGDOM OF LIARS primarily during my last two years of college. I sold the novel in January 2018. And now, about two and half years later, the book will finally be available for everyone to read.

When I wrote THE KINGDOM OF LIARS, my goal was to tell the story of what would happen if a legendary family had a morally questionable child that crumbled under the pressure of emulating his ancestors. Because hasn’t anyone ever wondered what it was like to be the child of the chosen one? What kind of stress they would be under and what they would do if they failed to be heroic? This idea grew from my disillusion with the chosen one and prodigy tropes common in fantasy novels, and my fascination with characters like Jamie Lannister from Game of Thrones, Prince Zuko from Avatar the Last Airbender, or Bakugo from My Hero Academia. The characters that readers initially hated but grew to love over time. And so, Michael Kingman was born.

So, let me be clear—Michael Kingman is not the chosen one. He’s not a hero. He’s not a prodigy. He’s not stronger than others. He’s not smarter. And it’s debatable whether he’s even that good of a person. But he’s persistent to a fault, values family over everything, and stubborn enough to defy fate. I can’t say if Michael Kingman will be for everyone, but I hope readers will stick with his story to its conclusion as he matures from a child to an adult.

Oh, and I would be remised if I didn’t mention that there’s a magic system that costs memories to use, a shattered moon that has pieces of it fall from the sky, an emerging civil war between magic and gunpowder, and plenty of secrets to discover. Hope you enjoy the book!
Profile Image for TS Chan.
719 reviews884 followers
June 19, 2020
ARC received from the publisher, Saga Press, in exchange for an honest review.

Kingdom of Liars was one of the most hyped up debuts in 2020, and I believe it's partly due to Sanderson's blurb. While I'm not disputing what Sanderson said about this book, the enjoyment I derived from reading it was a whole lot more mixed than his blurb would suggest.

I'm not going to describe the book's plot as the synopsis was comprehensive enough without revealing too much. The balance of plot and characterisation was done quite well for a debut. However, it did take me almost half of the book before I felt fully engaged. This is partly because Michael Kingman, the main protagonist, was quite an aggravating character. As much as I sympathised with his plight - admittedly what happened to him and his family following his father's execution as murderer and traitor was horrible - he came across a whiny brat who was the architect of his own problems through his many stupid decisions. Fortunately, his characterisation did not stay this way throughout the entire book. Michael's development and his investigation into what really happened on the night of his father's downfall kept the story quite compelling till the very end.

At the end of the day though, I still wasn't as invested in Michael's story as I hoped to be. I found most of the characters to either be not that likeable nor memorable. The title of the book was also very appropriate because it was so hard to tell who was telling the truth. Then there was the promising worldbuilding that felt a tad half-baked at this point in time. The shattered moon and memory being the price of using magic were all fascinating ideas but not explored as much as I would like it to be. I supposed that it was fair for the author to prefer to keep the focus on Michael's character development given that this is not a stand-alone and the worldbuilding could be expanded in the later books. I do have doubts that I will continue with this series as the plot was adequately wrapped up in Kingdom of Liars, but I'm not sufficiently attached to the characters. All that said, this book could work (and I've seen that it did) for other readers who may not feel as I did for the characters.

You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping) | Bookshop.org (Support Independent Bookstores) | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Profile Image for Lezlie The Nerdy Narrative.
446 reviews440 followers
October 31, 2022
"It's the long con that wins in the end, Michael. The people who do things worth remembering are the ones willing to wait decades to achieve it."

If you prefer video reviews, I do have one on my YouTube channel, The Nerdy Narrative, and this review can be found here: https://youtu.be/kXKXf8cFYVQ

Here's a new one for you:
I read this book (finally) because I got an email from Saga Press asking if I'd like to read and review the ARC for THE VOYAGE OF THE FORGOTTEN. Seeing as it was less than two weeks before it dropped, I had my work cut out for me because I had not read the first two books in the trilogy yet! Never let it be said this bookworm backed down from a reading challenge!

So here we are, the first book read and ready to review!

It didn't occur to me when I decided to binge a trilogy that it wouldn't be good. At least it didn't until I started reading, but fortunately I got sucked right into this story and had no trouble at all reading it like a little fiend for 3 days! (Huge thank you to my friend Ev for sending me this book a couple years ago to read!)

Michael Kingman and his siblings live in Hollow with their foster father, Angelo. Michael's mother resides in an asylum, assumed to be a Forgotten, which occurred after Michael's father was executed as a traitor for the murder of the King's heir 10 years prior. The children, as a lesson, are all branded publicly as traitors, losing rights to Kingman Keep, titles and status. This is Michael's story, his desperate attempt to restore the legacy of the Kingman family, to serve his country by acting as the counterbalance to the Royals and their rule. Michael attempts to con the nobles for information, but more often than not, he's the one being used by them. Can he determine the truth or if not, get his family away from Hollow before the Rebel Emperor launches a full scale attack against the nobility in the Kingman name?

In this epic fantasy world, magic costs memories to use - the more magic you do, the more memories you lose until you become a Forgotten. Political ambitions soar to deadly heights and Michael learns he is not the only one who is searching for the truth of what happened the night the King's son was murdered. If he doesn't have enough on his plate, Michael *knows* he is a Fabricator, but no one seems willing to teach him how to determine what his specialty is and how to use it which serves as an endless source of frustration to him.

I really enjoyed this one! I always adore when an author gives me a magic system that comes at personal cost to its user, it just adds a level of danger and suspense to it all, making it a bit sinister rather than whimsical. It also means the characters will generally give their actions deep consideration, which I enjoy being privy to - I've always been a big fan of learning what makes people tick. What I love even more? Fabricators keep their specialties a secret until they're forced to use it - making magical altercations more about wits that the magic. Unrest, rebellion, revenge - another element that adds excitement, danger and a timeframe - it usually means events will roll along at a faster clip rather than a slow build since things seem close to boiling over.

The mystery of who killed the King's son fascinated me - the author really wrote this plotline in a way that was ambiguous - did Michael's father kill the child? Or was it someone else? Michael himself wasn't sure. I loved the distinction of the society and its classes - most especially the Skeletons and Brands - I hope to read more about those people who received the Sacrifice brand, which is the worst brand you could receive, even worse than Michael's traitor brand. Being branded as a Sacrifice meant you were barred from society, your life, your future had zero meaning except to die. On more than one occasion, a child received a brand simply because their father did. Can you imagine?? I also look forward to learning more about different types of Fabrications and their uses - especially about Shadow Fabricators - those who have the ability to copy or mimic another Fabricator's specialization!

There were so many interesting plotlines introduced and while most were resolved, their resolution led to more questions and mysteries that I look forward to delving into with the next installment of this trilogy. Speaking of, time to put an end to this review and get to reading THE TWO-FACED QUEEN to see what happens next!
Profile Image for Celeste.
933 reviews2,384 followers
April 29, 2020
Actual rating: 2.5 stars

I tried so hard to like this book. The premise was really promising. A magic system that feeds on memories? That’s a fascinating concept! But the magic was barely explored or explained in any meaningful way. And while this is billed as an adult fantasy, it felt so young adult in tone that I felt suckered into reading something I hadn’t actually agreed to. The setting was vague in its description to the point that I had a hard time putting myself into the action. The supporting cast was fine, but populated with vaguely intriguing cardboard cutouts instead of tangible characters with any depth. The main character, Michael Kingman, drove me absolutely insane. I wanted to shake him for constantly repeating the same mistakes and for being so blind to (very obvious) plot twists that he was constantly being blindsided. Speaking of those twists, most of them were so glaringly transparent that I audibly groaned dozens upon dozens of times. The plot didn’t feel in any way fresh, but instead reused tropes in a way that felt like an amateur band covering popular songs, if that makes sense. I’m in no way trying to belittle the book or the author; I’m just annoyed that there was so much potential here that, in my opinion, wasn’t ever met. It wasn’t a bad book, and I’m sure plenty of readers are going to love it. It was action-packed and full or drama, and it did keep me turning pages. But regrettably, it just didn't work for me.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Shreyas Deshpande.
159 reviews11 followers
May 7, 2023
This debut fantasy novel is a thrilling ride full of unexpected twists, intriguing mysteries, and jaw-dropping reveals. From start to finish, I was on the edge of my seat, never quite sure where the story would take me. The plot twists were particularly impressive, keeping me guessing until the very end.

The story is told entirely from the perspective of the main character, who is a flawed but fascinating individual. His quest to redeem his family name is both compelling and relatable. I also appreciated the well-developed side characters, and would have loved to see the story from their perspectives as well.

The world-building in this book is top-notch, with a unique and immersive setting that's full of court intrigue and surprises. Overall, this is a must-read for any fantasy fan looking for a fresh and exciting new voice in the genre.

Ratings:- ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Profile Image for Angelica.
814 reviews1,154 followers
Want to read
May 6, 2020
I mean, if Brandon Sanderson blurbed it, right?
Profile Image for *Thea 'Wookiee'sMama' Wilson*.
245 reviews72 followers
November 17, 2020
I can honestly say that this is great debut fantasy novel that keep me hooked from beginning to end. The action was non-stop and the characters were realistic, flawed and interesting to get to know. The world building was decent and will obviously grow given time as the series grows. The only flaws I could find were the lack of detail on the magic system and the outside rebellion that was only touched upon but not really explained, saying that it is early days in the series and I am sure these will be improved upon given time.

Anyway this was a great book and a definite recommendation from me.
Profile Image for FanFiAddict.
548 reviews144 followers
May 4, 2020
Rating: 9.0/10

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of The Kingdom of Liars for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.

The Kingdom of Liars is an ingenious and stunning debut fantasy novel. A magic system with harsh consequences, an intriguing array of characters, and world-building that begs for its own stand-alone novel make this a must-read for 2020.

This novel has been on my “need-to-read” list for some time and I am so glad that I finally had the time to sit down and just devour it.

The main thing that really drew me in were the covers themselves, which are absolutely stunning. The US edition was done by Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme (US versions of Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestory Trilogy, Jon Skovron’s The Empire of Storms Trilogy, among others) and the UK edition done by none other than Richard Anderson (Nicholas Eames’ The Band, Brian Staveley’s The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, Victor Milán’s Dinosaur Lords series, among many others). I’m pretty sure I’ve noted how much of a cover snob I am, especially for anything from these two (2) artists. It is almost a guarantee that I’ll get a copy to add to my ever-growing shelves, but 9/10 I’ll give it a read, too.

Though there is always hesitation with fairly chunky debut novels, I threw caution to the wind when going into this one due to the Sanderson and Islington blurbs. Funny thing is (and get your tomatoes ready), I’ve never read a novel by either of these authors (I’M SORRY, HONEST), but I know how much of a following both have and how loyal their fanbases are so to take them at their word is a pretty good bet. To say the bet paid off is an understatement.

Michael Kingman is a bit of an enigma to say the least. He is very difficult to read, root for, and all of the other things you look for in a typical fantasy protagonist; but as the novel progresses, you find yourself in his corner more often than not. If I had to compare him to another character in fantasy, it would probably be Jorg Ancrath from Lawrence’s Broken Empire, but a little less grim, dark, and murdery. Morally grey with a mindset on righting a wrong, and not really caring who gets hurt in the process; stopping at nothing to get answers to questions that have tortured him most of his life and attempting to salvage his family’s name.

I also really enjoyed the world-building and magic system. The city of Hollow is just brimming with intrigue and I wish there was a map to go and explore in the book (maybe in Book 2, Gollancz?). On top of that, you have a fractured moon that drops pieces fairly consistently, leading to alarm within the populace that there will, one day soon, be no Hollow in existence. Not sure if that is a nod to Majora’s Mask, but well done. Back when I had Nick on my podcast, I asked about where he came up with the idea of magic costing memories and he stated that our memories are the worst thing we could stand to lose. And when you stop to think about it, it is a harsh truth. Think about anyone who has had to go through or seen someone go through the stages of long-term amnesia or even Alzheimer's. I can remember my grandmother in the last couple of years of her life dealing with the disease and how crushing it was when she had no recognition of who I was.

All in all, I absolutely loved this novel and I cannot wait to continue this series. Nick is officially an auto-read for me.
Profile Image for Andreas.
482 reviews139 followers
June 7, 2020
This quite prominent Moon on the cover has been breaking apart since forever. The parts sometimes rain down on Michael Kingman’s city “Hollow” where all of this doorstopper of a novel is situated. The Kingman family has protected the city since its founding, functioning as a check-and-balance for the king’s power. Michael’s father has been executed because he murdered the King’s son. Michael and his siblings have been branded as traitors, and they barely survived the following riots.

Ten years later, Michael hates everything that looks like nobility, and he works as a conman tricking country noble bumbkins from their money. This starts a long winded tale through saving his friends, his family including his mad mother, restoring his name, trying to remember.

It comes up quite early on, that his memories were failing – a side effect of using magic in this world. Only that Michael has never learned, which kind of magic he could wield.

He enters the “Endless Waltz”, a long tradition of Hollow nobility to present their youngsters and marry them off, in order to restore his name and prove that his father was not guilty.

On his desperate way, he meets a drunken madman, an extraordinary deadly Mercenary-sorcerer, a sexy police-girl, and old-new friends that he didn’t remember.

Up to some 40% of this novel, I had to fight the slow turning pages – I found it interesting but way too slow. Only then did it take off, starting with fantasy tropes like a huge library and a full blown, living dragon. The mystery entangled Michael ever more and went into hyperdrive for the whole second part of the novel.

I loved the closed setting and the diversity, liveness of the city Hollow, its contrast between the dark, drug-addicted slums, the shady asylum, the better situated residential homes, and the shiny nobility households. Most characters had their own motives, and played them well according to their characters – there were no damsels in mistress, but strong women driving, bribing, enchanting Michael.

I’m a sucker for unreliable narrators – and Michael fits well into this whole society of liars filling lost memories with their own versions of the truth. He is a likeable hero, because what he does is based on his main motto “Family looks after family” which he extends to friends. His complex social network with conman-friends, siblings, and new friends ground Michael’s stupid decisions and heroic actions.

As the start of a series, I give the novel some leeway in exposition, but nearly half the novel was too much, too slow for a balanced pacing, especially compared to the reckless speed in the later half.

The last one hundred pages found a lot of unexpected and excellent plot twists, and opened up the setting for further exploration in the next volume of the Legacy of the Mercenary King series. Which I will certainly read. This volume, I recommend with the caveat to be patient and endure the first half – the reward lies in the second half.
Profile Image for Logan.
216 reviews62 followers
March 5, 2020
A fantasy debut full of twists, mystery and reveals. Honestly, this book was very unpredictable for me; I really didn't know where things would end up and it had me guessing right up until the very end. The plot twists were my favorite part of this book.
The magic reminded me a bit of Brandon Sanderson with its unique naming system and the very real cost of magic use. The idea of memories was explored a lot in this book and I found this theme to be extremely interesting. I haven't read many books that deal with memory and legacy in this way before.
The whole story is told through the head of the main character, who is an interesting and flawed character that stubbornly persists in his quest to redeem his family name. I enjoyed the side characters a lot, and would have enjoyed hearing the story told from a few other viewpoints as well. The world was very unique and I enjoyed the court intrigue.
A story full of surprises and set in a unique, immersive world.
I received a free ebook copy of this book through Netgalley.
Profile Image for S A M | The Book in Hand.
223 reviews100 followers
August 2, 2021
Here are a few things you can expect from this book…

A brilliant debut;
Politics, family, brotherhood and many more great themes;
A distinctive and fun world;
A freaking fantastic audiobook; and
A mystery feel to the plot.
On to the full review…

The Kingdom of Liars was for me a huge surprise and one I am glad I got to experience. I didn’t really know much about this book and admittedly requested it on NetGalley without much thought on the matter. I know, bad me. However, I started reading it and as per usual work stole half of my time so I switched it up and started listening to it instead and all I can say was that I was so thoroughly hooked!

The Kingdom of Liars ticked so many boxes for me! We had mystery, adventure, magic, politics and so much intrigue. It was such an enjoyable read, that is not to say it is perfect but when I have this much fun reading a book I really don’t mind if it falters in a few areas. I enjoyed the characters, the world and the story.

Something I really liked about this book was the magic. It was refreshing to read and I always appreciate it when there are heavy costs to the use of said magic, which in this case was the magic users memories. Mix that in with a story in which the characters are constantly seeking out the truth, the risk of potentially finding something out only to loose it as a result of your magic use is quite frankly genius. It is such a simple concept and yet so damned effective, there is literally always the fear that you will find out the information you are so desperately trying to find only to lose it in a heartbeat because of a decision to save yourself or another. I mean if that doesn’t have you salivating as a reader I don’t know what will!

I also loved our main character, Michael. Yes he was a very VERY flawed character and he can be such a pity party to himself but lord knows I loved the kid! I saw his irritating traits and even rolled my eyes a few times at how he insisted on acting without all the information but I am not going to lie, I absolutely loved reading him. Michael was such a fresh take on the main character and as a result I found his internal thoughts and his interactions with other characters throughly engaging and enjoyable.

There were a few technical issues present in this debut and a few pacing issues but as I said earlier I loved the characters, the world and the plot so they didn’t bother me all that much. Yes, I noticed them but when you read as many books as I do it is hard not to spot them at times. The question is did they impact or decrease my enjoyment of this book? Absolutely not.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I also thoroughly enjoyed book two! Thus, I cant wait to read book three!



I actually already have this book in Hardback and I stand by that purchase. So, this is a really easy rating for my…BUY THE HARDBACK
Profile Image for The Fantasy Review.
273 reviews199 followers
January 19, 2023
Spoiler-Free The Kingdom of Liars Book Review

The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell is a fantastic, engaging debut. I received a review copy from the publisher on Netgalley for an honest review.

Interesting Plot

Political intrigue makes for amazing fantasy books, especially when it’s done well. The Kingdom of Liars might just be one of my new favourite fantasy political intrigues!

The novel begins at the end, and the spends the rest of the book telling how things ended how they did - I was hooked immediately! Who isn’t when the main character is supposedly destined to die?

It can be difficult to end a book with a cyclical structure in a satisfying way, but Nick Martell succeeds in providing us with a string enough ending that has made me excited to read on in the series.

Great Main Character

Michael Kingman is a compelling character with an interesting backstory. You can see what makes him who he is through his actions and dialogue. It is clear how he developed because of his past and the world around him.

He is a great character to follow, with engaging relationships and a knack for getting what he wants. Definitely a lot of fun to follow throughout the novel.

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Profile Image for Maja Ingrid.
460 reviews132 followers
December 12, 2022
I definitely made the right desicion rereading this book (and soon I will also reread The Two-faced Queen). There were way too many details I had forgotten and it was good having a refresh. Both times reading this book I was in a bit of a slump, and yet both times I had real easy good time reading the book. The font is pretty big and spacious in my edition, which certainly helps going through the pages at a quick pace. Martell also got a really easy writing style to follow as well.

The book starts with our main character Michael Kingman at a trial for murdering the king, and being sentenced to death in the first chapter. The rest of the book follows the events that led up to that trial. It follows Michael on his quest to restore his family’s legacy, for when Michael was young, his father was accused and executed for killing the King’s oldest son. Once The Kingman family was the protectors of the royal family, now they were traitors. The father executed, the mother locked away at an asaylum and the children branded. They were blamed for most stuff going shit, the kingdom falling apart, the boiling rebellion, even the moon shattering. Michael’s siblings both tried to shape a life away from their old one, but Michael couldn’t, always looking for ways to prove his father innocent and to restore his family legacy. And when an opportunity then shows up, he takes it. Which brings him back into the scheming world of the nobility, a world he barely has any memory of, and a world where not everyone is keen on having him back.

There’s also magic. We don’t get a whole lot of it since Michael explains it as an outsider without much of his own experiences and knowledge. But those who can wield magic are called Fabricators and typically got one special power, element they can control. It could be shadow, light, sound, metal, for example. There's a catch, for magic always comes with a price. In this case it’s memories. Using magic means the Fabricator loses a memory and theres no way to tell what kind of memory that will be lost. I LOVE magic systems where the use of magic actually has consequences. I hate it when a magic user does huge feats of magic and barely even breaks a sweat. Magic should have limits and it should come with consequences, and memory loss is a fun take on it.

Also the US cover for this book totally smash, it’s so gorgeous!
Profile Image for Andria Potter.
Author 2 books60 followers
February 25, 2020
Heavy in politics, lots of rebellions, death, and intrigue. After a while I lost interest though that's through no fault of the books. Michael Kingman is a fascinating character and I will be seeing where this story goes later on. DNF at 54%.
Profile Image for Meli  .
1,103 reviews202 followers
January 29, 2023
Die Königmanns gehörten zu den wichtigsten Familien im Königreich Kessel, doch seitdem Mikaels Vater als Mörder des Prinzen hingerichtet wurde, kämpfen sie ums Überleben. Zehn Jahre später hält sich Mikael immer noch von allen Adligen fern, versucht nicht zu sehr aufzufallen und will seine Familie beschützen. Aber er wird in komplizierte Intrigen verwickelt und ist bald entschlossen herauszufinden, wie der Prinz wirklich gestorben ist.

Mikael hängt sehr am guten Namen seiner Familie und will dem Vermächtnis seiner Vorfahren gerecht werden. Man sieht aber gar nicht so viel davon, wie seine Familie früher war, auch wenn man viel davon hört, wie wichtig sie für das Königreich seien. Jetzt bedeutet ihr Name immer noch viel, doch manche würden sie gerne tot sehen, obwohl der König selbst die Kinder verschont hat. Einige treue Anhänger und oder auch Rebellen glauben jedoch, dass Mikaels Vater den Prinzen nicht getötet hat, denn er hatte gar keinen Grund dazu.

Die Welt fand ich schon interessant, die verschiedenen Fabrikationen, die zwischendurch zum Einsatz kommen, sowie ihre Kosten - meistens verliert man Erinnerungen und auch Mikael bemerkt, dass er sich nicht mehr an alle Details aus seiner Kindheit erinnern kann, obwohl er nicht mal weiß, ob er überhaupt ein Fabrikator ist. So weit weg vom Hof und all ihren Sitten gibt es viel, das er verpasst hat und noch aufholen muss. Ich mochte auch Details wie den zerbrochenen Mond Celona, die verschiedenen Söldnerkompanien, für die andere Regeln gelten, und wie Schusswaffen die Kriegsführung verändert haben. Von mir aus hätte es aber gern noch mehr sein können und ich freue mich darauf, die Welt in den Fortsetzungen weiter zu erkunden.

Manchmal kam es mir so vor, als würden sich Probleme schon ein bisschen zu leicht lösen lassen, weil die Charaktere oft leicht zu überzeugen waren. Doch Intrigen, ganz offene Mordabsichten, wechselnde Loyalitäten und alte Geheimnisse machen das Buch zu einem spannenden Abenteuer.
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