The Night’s Masque Trilogy: The Prince of Lies by Anne Lyle – Advance Review [Bane of Kings]

The Prince of Lies

Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”,  review the third and final novel in the historical fantasy Night’s Masque series by Anne Lyle, published by Angry Robot Books and released on October 29 in the USA. Expect the UK version to hit shelves just more than a week later – November 7.

“An excellent final act, The Prince of Lies finishes off the trilogy very well indeed, and ending the trilogy in a very satisfying way – Fans of the previous two novels will not be disappointed by what they see here, and once again, Lyle proves herself to be one of the go-to people for good historical fantasy novels with this superb finale.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

Elizabethan spy Mal Catlyn has everything he ever wanted – his twin brother Sandy restored to health, his family estate reclaimed and a son to inherit it – but his work is far from over. The renegade skraylings, the guisers, are still plotting – their leader, Jathekkil, has reincarnated as the young Prince Henry Tudor. But while he is still young, Mal has a slim chance of eliminating his enemies whilst they are at their weakest.

With Sandy’s help, Mal learns to harness his own magic in the fight against the guisers, but it may be too late to save England. Schemes set in motion decades ago are at last coming to fruition, and the barrier between the dreamlands and the waking world is wearing thin…

After 18 years since the start of the trilogy, we get to witness the conclusion, highly anticipated – at least by myself. I’ve loved how the first two novels have played out, but one thing that they all share in common, before they begin – is their awesome covers. I loved the one for The Alchemist of Souls and The Merchant of Dreams, and The Prince of Lies is no different. I don’t normally talk about covers in reviews but I’ve had to make an exception for this one – and I think if this was not part of a trilogy (or the first volume) and standing alone in a bookstore, I would have picked it up on the strength of its cover alone – like I did with Douglas Hulick’s Among Thieves – which I’m now regretting, because whilst it was an excellent book, it feels like the wait for a sequel has been forever. However, with a novel released each year – we don’t have to worry about waiting for long with The Prince of Lies, or any of the other Night’s Masque novels – as Anne Lyle wraps them up fairly quickly and doesn’t fall into the trap of having to extent her series beyond an initial trilogy that has happened multiple times before.

The Prince of LiesEverything comes to a conclusion in The Prince of Lies – Mal opens the novel with a reclaimed family estate, a wife (Coby) and son to boot – along with the added bonus of his brother Sandy back in full health. That should mean the end of the series, right? He’s got what he wanted, after all. However, that’s not the case – Anne Lyle drags Mal back into action for one last time, and pit him against the renegade skraylings, known as the guisers. They’re still gaining power, and getting closer to the throne in the form of young Prince Henry Tudor – who is now effectively Jathekkil, their leader – or at least what he was reincarnated as. However, the battle can still be won, with Mal learning his own magic in preparation to save England. But will all of the characters efforts be for nothing?

It’s a very cleverly plotted third installment that although it may not knock you off your seat, The Prince of Lies is a very fitting conclusion to the Night’s Masque trilogy that isn’t entirely perfect – but the only issue that I had with it was merely a minor one, and that is Coby’s character didn’t really get as much to do as she did in the past two books. Now married to Mal and with a child, her reasons for not getting as involved as him are understandable but I would have liked Coby to take a more active role in the plot than what she has done here as I have enjoyed her portrayal in the past two books. However, she still manages to continue to hold readers interests in this book, or at least my interest and still manages to be as likable as she was before. This is mainly because of the introduction of Kit, adding a new POV to the book – meaning that we don’t get as much pagetime with already established characters as I would have liked. But it’s still probably the only real problem that I found with this book, because the rest of The Prince of Lies is very strong indeed.

In the past two novels, despite being set in Shakespearean London, we never really got the chance to see the Bard himself. Well, Lyle includes Shakespeare in person here, and she pulls off the playwright pretty well indeed, giving a nice touch to the series and making sure that his inclusion doesn’t overshadow the roles of other protagonists, and neither does she feel the need to put him in at every possible opportunity, like Peaky Blinders (The TV show) seemed to love doing with a young Winston Churchill. It gets that balance between historical characters (Shakespeare is not the only historical figure in this book) and created characters spot on, and does it pretty well indeed.

The prose, as one would expect from Anne Lyle, is as strong as ever. It’s similar to the high-quality standards of The Alchemist of Souls and The Merchant of Dreams so there is no dip there. The book also moves along at a fairly steady pace – whilst it may not be a page-turning thriller, I never felt the need to skip a few pages ahead because I was bored, and neither did  I want to abandon the book altogether. However, The Prince of Lies manages to be just as captivating as previous entries have been, and we instantly find ourselves rooting for the protagonists (which should be no surprise as readers will have already encountered them twice before) over the antagonists and the book never gets to the point where we actually dislike the characters that we’re meant to be rooting for, which is always good (Unlike the character Max from the titular series from James Patterson, who became more or less unlikable the further the books progressed in the series), so on a whole, The Prince of Lies is still mostly solid when it comes to the characters.

In conclusion then, The Prince of Lies is a strong end to the trilogy. It wraps things up very well giving the characters a great send off and will have me really interested in whatever Lyle writes next. Fans of the first two books should enjoy this novel but as you can probably tell from my review, and the fact that it’s a final act in a trilogy, it’s obviously not a good jumping on point if you haven’t read the first two. There’s plenty of awesomeness found within this series as a whole so if you’re reading this review without knowledge of the first two books for whatever reason, then I strongly suggest that you go back and read them – you won’t regret it. The Prince of Lies  – despite the lack of a certain character being involved as much as I would have liked her to (only a minor problem really when you consider that the rest of the book was fantastic) is a very strong book, and it’s great to see the  trilogy end on a high note. Recommended.

VERDICT: 4.5/5

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer