Cover Image: Priest of Gallows

Priest of Gallows

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In this third book in the Thomas Piety series, the protagonist continues his ascension to power, and the polítics in the capital of the kingdom increasangly complex and dangerous. Already waiting for the fourth in this series.
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Sigo con cierto interés la serie de Peter McLean War for the Rose Throne, que, ilusa de mí, pensaba que era una trilogía. Pero tras leer la tercera entrega me ha quedado claro que no es así y ya veremos si la historia acaba con el siguiente libro.

El narrador sigue siendo el mismo Tomas Piety al que conocimos cuando volvía de la guerra, pero que ahora ha ido escalando socialmente hasta llegar a un puesto inimaginable con sus humildes orígenes. Sin embargo, estos cambios no han sido necesariamente para mejor, ya que como se verá a lo largo del libro el poder y la corrupción van siempre de la mano y eso es algo que no se puede evitar.

De nuevo cambiamos de escenario, esta vez casi todo el libro ocurre en la capital del reino, donde se acumula todo el poder y también prácticamente la mayoría de las conspiraciones. El detonador de la historia será la muerte de la reina, que aunque se está manteniendo en secreto pronto se tendrá que hacer pública, por lo que todos los miembros de los Hombres de la Reina, una policía secreta a la que Tomas pertenece, deberán recibir instrucciones en la propia ciudad.

La presencia de la magia es casi testimonial en la novela, aunque tiene su importancia sobre todo en el clímax final, siendo esta más una historia de purgas y luchas por el poder que de fantasía clásica. Desde el principio el autor se encarga de quitarnos el velo de glamour que las labores de espionaje pudieran tener para nosotros, deviniendo en una constante de violencia y terror, de imponer el plan de ruta marcado por la Eminencia Gris de la organización para «mantener el status quo» mientras en realidad no hace si no consolidar su propio poder. En ningún momento podemos engañarnos y pensar que Tomas es buena persona, pero sí que tenía cierta brújula moral con la que afrontaba las situaciones que ahora parece totalmente inexistente.

El tono de la novela y el vocabulario usado se ajusta perfectamente a como nos imaginaríamos que hablara una persona sin estudios que ha aprendido en la «Universidad de la vida», aunque no se puede negar que la astucia del protagonista y su experiencia le permiten salir de ciertas situaciones que podrían haberse convertido en trampas mortales. Se trata de un libro oscuro y pesimista, que se podría incluso considerar de transición ya que no se habla nada de la guerra en ciernes que parecía inminente en la conclusión de Priest of Bones, pero que resulta satisfactorio tanto en su desarrollo como en su ejecución.

Esperemos que Priest of Crowns, previsto para el año que viene, consiga mantener el nivel.
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Thankyou NetGalley,  Quercus Books and the author,  Peter McLean, for the opportunity to read Priest of Gallows in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion. 
I love the War For The Rose Throne series, of which this the third instalment. 
Such a good read with an imaginative storyline and compelling characters that keep you up into te early hours just so you can finish 
Well worth a read.
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‘They say the Queen’s Warrant opens all doors, and I’m sure that’s true. In my experience though, money and respect and influence do it just as well, and more importantly, they do it quieter. Those are the levers that move the world.’

Tomas Piety is being played. Someone thinks they have his measure, that they’ve found his lever. And you know what? They’re not entirely wrong. Tomas finally has everything he ever wanted: wealth, status, power. A real dream come true. It’s been his plan right from the start. And yet… his path from the streets of Ellinburg to Dannsburg’s royal palace has brought him all the wrong attention. Now he’s caught in a web of debt and expectation, surrounded by dangerous people who feel like they are owed. And they’re not the types to take no for an answer. Tomas paid in blood to get in, he’ll have to drown the city in blood to get out…

As always, it is Tomas’ singular voice that mesmerises. You find yourself leaning in, like his tale is told in a whisper and you daren’t miss a single word. But is this the same man we know? The practical man who does things his way? I don’t think so. The ground under his feet is shaky and his harsh justice is being subsumed to someone else’s desires. It’s jarring, discordant. For the first time, I feel like I know more than he does. I’m certain he won’t let this stand forever, but he seems less sure. The stakes are raising by the day, but he’s struggling to find his feet in the far deadlier realm of politics. He’s lucky that he has Bloody Anne, I’m ever more convinced he could not continue without her. A rather dangerous position to be in. Now, war is coming. It is the ultimate fear for Piety and all those like him, soldiers ground down in the bloody streets of Abingon. The ruinous effects of war on the minds and bodies of men and women has featured powerfully in the series so far and remains front and centre here. From Piety’s own flashbacks to a new character who is trauma made flesh, this series acts as a reminder that violence has consequences. Never has that been more clear than in the dark spaces beneath Dannsburg’s streets, where atrocities are committed under the guise of ‘the greater good’. A ‘good’ later rebranded as Necessity. Then paraded through the streets as ‘truth’. Oh the parallels… This is a tale with more than a little social commentary, sharp and perfectly realised. Look what happens when… Honestly, the cynicism is splashed so liberally it should seep from the page. Despite the fact it’s far from subtle, it was one of my favourite aspects of the book. In the act of noticing, we get to share a wry smile with Tomas, a nod of the head. Yes, we see it too. Unlike us, however, Tomas might be able to do something about it… More than that, he’ll have to if he doesn’t want those same streets covered in blood instead of lies.

‘The truth is so easily drowned by the words of the majority that it counts for little, in my experience’. 

My one issue with this book is that it felt like it was a set up for something bigger, more like a part one of two than a book entire. I’m not saying this is a placeholder, but for all the action in the novel, there just wasn’t enough there for it to feel like its own story. There are few surprises and it felt… stretched (like butter scraped over too much bread). Tomas spends a good deal of time considering his options, doing little more than what he’s told. Perhaps he makes some big decisions by the end of the book, but I wanted him to have made them a hell of a lot sooner. He’s nobody’s fucking errand boy. Chafing at his chains wasn’t enough for me. But maybe I’m just being too impatient, too damn annoyed on his behalf. Vogel might sit like a spider at the heart of this, but Tomas is the kind of trouble you just can’t plan for, and I want him to rip the Provost’s perfectly crafted web to shreds.

‘Always cheat, always win.’

See you in the finale, Tomas, I can’t wait to see what you have planned…

ARC via Netgalley
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Tomas Piety won’t sit down for no one, not now he’s got the Queen’s Warrant. He’s near unstoppable in the third and penultimate book in the War for the Rose Throne. Priest of Gallows is so utterly unrelenting and blunt in its message it’ll leave you gasping – heart-thumping – trying to keep above the sheer horror within its pages; it’s so very brutal, so very sharp-of-wit and so unforgiving. McLean ramps up everything you’d have loved from the first two that plunges us into unfamiliar territory with familiar faces.

Without wanting to spoil anything, the plot in short sees Tomas deeply embroiled in a situation that really has gone awry, a situation so out of the norm that he’s forced to Dannsburg at the command of Dieter Vogel to try help smooth over the disaster … and disaster it is. Meanwhile, he cements his position about the secret elite. I mean, I know what I’ve said here really does skate around the plot, but so much happens so quickly that I feel like you need to go into this one fresh. As ever, I have to say it’s not for the feint-hearted; there’s scenes early on that really are unsettling … Ilse, a new face, is certainly someone you get the crash course into knowing. Brutal isn’t the word. Then there’s the twists and turns, which I also really can’t mention, but damned does it get flashy; if you’d not had your fill of the cunning, this will certainly satiate that need and then some. I’m a sucker for magic, so to see it front and centre in this book was amazing.

The setting in this one is different; if the first two were gangland warfare, this one is a definite change of pace. It’s Tomas with real power and real authority and in part I did miss the skirmishes back in Ellinburg, the violence without a writ. But it’s a definite upwards turn in Tomas’ character arc: we have seen him go from battle-weary arrival to Dannsburg elite. A man not to be messed with. But no matter how high he climbs, there’s plenty of scum to teach a lesson and plenty of them are the disgusting and wretched upper classes who think money can buy them a free pass into their brutal pastimes … and it has done, but not now Tomas is the man with the swords, but they’re not named justice, although he’s happy to give you some. Even so, McLean grounds him in his battle shock and roots. He’s not really one of those up top, and he’ll also only take so much. Still, it’s all personal for Tomas and he won’t really make a move other than to save his own name, and to right something he feels is wrong, or has wronged him. I love the way we’re almost led to believe he might be a hero, but that’s really a matter of perspective. He’s a villain to those above, and a villain to those who cross him. His heart isn’t always in the right place, but he’ll ensure his own are looked after and that’s something you’ve got to love about his character.

A special mention goes to Iagin – I bloody love that man. And the ride his and Tomas’ relationship has taken. From almost-enemies, or certainly individuals would never be called acquaintances, to fast friends. Iagin is an ally well-earnt and crucially needed amongst the political intrigue and plotting that goes on in Dannsburg. His taut, blunt words and fast action led me to laugh and wince.

The cunning blew me away … and it’s one of those clever magic systems which just tells you nothing about how it works but in Priest of Gallows it attempts to give us insight, to add to the little we know about it through the eyes of Billy.

Overall, this is the best entry into the series yet and I couldn’t put it down. It’s everything you need in a low-fantasy read.
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Priest of Gallows by Peter McClean builds brilliantly on the two novels that came before. Hampered only slightly by the need to set up the final conflict, Thomas Piety in this story is more conflicted and brutal than ever.

The War for the Rose Throne series is most certainly not one you can start at book 3. Priest of Gallows takes everything that’s come before sticks a wick in the metaphorical bomb of the psyche of Thomas Piety, and the stability of the world, and lights the fuse.

You see, Piety is a full on Queen’s man now, which sees him back in the capital, working directly under the head of the operation and evil bastard Vogel. As Piety tries to reckon with his new role, he sees the horrors that the Queen’s men inflict firsthand, and contributes to them. Piety still manages to be the least evil bastard out of all the evil bastards and even if this is the most uncomfortable I’ve been with his actions, I still root for him.

There’s a lot of Piety being told what to do in this book, more so than in the previous two it felt like. Occasionally this could feel frustrating, but he still manages to exert small amounts of control over his situation, making moves even he isn’t entirely sure to what end. There’s definitely a feeling of Piety preparing for something, that I’m pretty sure is going to pay off in a big way in the next book.

I love seeing Piety in Dannsburg – those were my favourite sections in Priest of Lies and there was far more of it in this book. Piety’s intersection with nobility just works so well, and it’s great to meet and get to know better the other Queen’s Men warrant holders and well. We see less of Ailsa than I would have liked, and not much of the crew other than Bloody Anne, Fat Luka and Rosie, but there’s a large new cast to introduce, and it makes sense that Piety can’t move his entire crew to Dannsburg.

McClean has delivered again with Prieat of Gallows, meeting his promises and providing some great new twists. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Thomas Piety and his crew in the final entry of the series.

Rating: 9/10
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<b>Nobody puts Tomas Piety in a corner.</b>
I know. Quoting Dirty Dancing can seem a bit strange. Or a lot. Quite a lot. But this quote is just so perfect for this book! Sorry, not sorry.
The second book ended on a lot of dark notes, because Tomas was really in a bad place. He tries to do his best to protect his family, his streets, and to do what is right, but he has to deal with the cards that others gave him and it was a choice between bad choices. He was in a really bad corner and I was full of fears for this next book. But oh my! This was just so good!

In this book we see Tomas, out of his element and out of his city. He is in strange territory, between enemies, and yet we see him turn the table around. He is a man on a mission, and he has what it takes to get what he wants. Or sort of. It is amazing to see how, even if he is out of his depths, he manages to find his way around. And how he manages to always find a way. Sure, things are not perfect. Are not easy. And all is not what it seems. But he manages to remain true to himself, and to his people. And I am so looking forward to the next book because even if I am quite scared, I need to see with my own eyes how Tomas would pull this out. Because at the beginning of the book he is a man on a mission, but at the end of it he is a man on a MISSION. And I just have to see how this would play out. And I need it now! Believe me, the plot is just so full of intrigues, and action, and things that you would be hooked up from the start, and you would take a breath only after reading the last word of it. It is so good!

And with a good plot, we have some amazing characters. To be honest, I would just repeat myself, because in my reviews for the first and second book I have said pretty much the same things, but it is good to just say them. Tomas is an amazing MC. He is one of those morally grey characters (and okay, he is more on the darker side of things), but his moral compass stands true. It is just not your usual moral compass. And even if at a first glance he can seem a pretty simple kind of man, he is not. And I really really enjoy him. His is also the voice that tells us the story, and it is a peculiar voice. You really feel him, and the author did an amazing job with it.
And then we have other complex characters. Bloody Anne is one of my favorite. She is a strong and fascinating woman, and she is Tomas’s best friend. It saddened me seeing them growing apart, the second book was pretty hard on this part, but in this third book, things are getting a bit better. They are not as they were, but it is a bit better, and that made me so happy!
Rosie gets more space in there, she becomes more real, and I appreciated her a lot. Then we have Billy, who is always the same strange little boy, even if he is not so little, he is growing to be his own man, and he can be pretty scary. I really hope that nothing bad would happen to him in the last book! And, last but not least, Ailsa. She is one of the more complex characters ever. It is not only that she is complex, it is that she is really inscrutable. She is so so hard to understand. And even if I am not her biggest fan, I have to admire her, because… well, I cannot understand how much of what we see is real, and how much is not. Again, the author did an amazing job with her.

Oh, I don’t know how it was possible, but I was forgetting Vogel. I know that I am repeating myself over and over, but the author did an amazing job with him. He is the best (or the worst) villain ever. He is so scary. And manipulative. He is an evil genius. And have I said yet that he is so scary??

There is so much to say about this book. And about its characters, because we get to see all of them like people, complex and real. They all are damaged, in a way or another, and this series is one of the best about post-traumatic disorder. We get to see a lot of characters suffering from it (and it makes so much sense since almost all of them were in a war on another) and mental health representation is really strong in there. But we get to see a lot of different sides of them. For example, we get to see Tomas making his way in a completely new environment, and not a friendly one at that, and he did great, but we get to see also a naive side of him, he is a man of action at heart and politics and intrigues are not his way. And sometimes he is slow to understand what it’s happening around him. And I mean really slow. Because even if all the facts are there to see, he is not as shrewd as the others who are playing the game.
And the intrigues are so intriguing, sorry for the pun! And it is also quite actual. And scary.
It is a wholesome book, and you can find so much on these pages!

To make a long story short, go and read this book. Now! And if you haven’t started this series yet… what are you waiting for??? Go, go go!!

Ah, one last little thing: this book is quite dark. Grim. And violent. So keep this in mind. But if this is not a problem for you… go and grab it. Now!
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Please note, Priest of Gallows is the third novel in the War of the Rose Throne series. If you haven’t read Priest of Bones and Priest of Lies then what follows will likely contain some spoilery type stuff. 

Gangster, soldier, priest. Queen’s Man. Governor.

Tomas Piety has everything he ever wanted. In public he’s a wealthy, highly respected businessman, happily married to a beautiful woman and Governor of his home city of Ellinburg. In private, he’s no longer a gang lord but one of the Queen’s Men, invisible and officially non-existent, working in secret to protect his country.

But when the queen’s sudden death sees him summoned him back to the capital, he discovers his boss, Dieter Vogel, Provost Marshal of the Queen’s Men, is busy tightening his stranglehold on the country.

Just as he once fought for his Pious Men, he must now bend all his wit and hard-won wisdom to protect his queen – but now he can’t always tell if he’s on the right side.

Tomas has started to ask himself, what is the price of power? And more importantly, is it one he is willing to pay?

I’ve been waiting for ages for this title to reach the top of my review list. The first two books in this series were a great deal of fun so I had high hopes for book three. I’m glad to report that I was not at all disappointed. Everyone’s favourite thoroughly disreputable anti-hero Tomas Piety is back. His ongoing ascent from a lowly soldier to gang boss, and then into the realms of politics and power continues. The only problem, the higher up the social ladder he climbs the worse the people are he meets. At least you know where you are with a career criminal, there is a certain degree of honesty to a barroom brawler that you just don’t find in polite society. It turns out that the old saying is not true. Great responsibility does not come with great power. What comes with great power is a far more complicated life where everyone wants a piece of you. Among the great and, not so, good there are factions within factions. Tomas can’t even begin to know who he can trust. It comes to something when you find yourself pining for the good old days of brothels and street fights.

No longer a backwater governor, Tomas has relocated to the capital and reports directly to the head of the Queen’s Men*. This new station should be the stuff of dreams, but it quickly becomes evident that Tomas has wandered into a nest of vipers, politically speaking. Chief amongst those snakes is the Provost Marshal, Dieter Vogel, who runs the Queen’s Men with Machiavellian levels of ruthless efficiency. If there is an issue that can be resolved with people conveniently disappearing, then that is exactly what happens. Vogel’s sociopathic tendencies ensure he is the person best suited to do his job. I got the distinct impression that he views people as a problem that needs to either be fixed or, more frequently, removed.

The good news is that Tomas isn’t alone, he still has friends he can rely upon. Bloody Anne remains a constant companion and his de-facto conscience. Anne has a strong moral compass and is more than prepared to call Tomas out when he makes mistakes. She’ll speak the truth even if she knows Tomas isn’t going to like it. I love the dynamic between these characters. They have been together since their time in the military and that sense of comradeship that was forged in battle is so well observed. There is a bond stronger than blood.

Tomas is coming to realise that he has long since stopped being the boss of all he surveys. He has become a small fish in a far bigger pond and it’s Vogel who is in charge. As the plot unfolds there is more and more evidence of Tomas being uncomfortable with the situation that he finds himself in. I foresee a moment soon when our erstwhile hero is going to have had enough. I’d imagine when that happens things are going to get suitably bloody. I certainly hope so. Tomas Piety dishing out a bit of righteous anger and old school violence on his enemies is bound to be a sight worth beholding. We are building to a definitive conclusion here people and I can’t wait. There is going to be one hell of a reckoning.

I’ll admit that I had assumed Priest of Gallows was going to conclude the War of the Rose Throne, but I have discovered that instead there will be a fourth book. I’m beyond pleased to note that we are not quite done with the adventures of Tomas Piety and the rest of the Pious Men yet. I await Priest of Crowns with bated breath.

Priest of Gallows is published by Jo Fletcher Books and is available from 27th May. Highly recommended.

For previous novels in this series, I have been inclined towards the most obvious choice when it comes to musical accompaniment. You know, Peaky Blinder related stuff. In this instance, however, I have gone a completely different direction. As I mentioned earlier Tomas Piety’s life appears to be taking a darker and darker turn so I thought something a bit more sinister would be fitting. The eerie, ambient soundtrack to the Tom Hardy movie Capone by El-P feels about right.

*A clandestine organisation that has carte blanche to do whatever needs to be done for the good of the kingdom.
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5 of 5 stars
My Five Word TL:DR Review : Brilliant

Seriously, I don’t need five words for my short review here – one will suffice.  Brilliant.  I absolutely loved this third instalment in the War for the Rose Throne in fact I can honestly say that not only was this my favourite book in the series so far but quite possibly one of the best books I’ve read for a long time.

This is not a series that you will want to crash into part way through.  In fact part of the real pull for me with the War for the Rose Throne is the fascinating way that the story and characters have evolved with each book.  Our main character, Tomas Piety, started the series returning to his home town following the end of the war and that first book had a gangster fantasy feel with Tomas slowly rising in power in Ellinburg.  The second instalment increased Tomas’s fortunes and brought him to the attention of the Queen’s Men.  He continued to rise in fortune, becoming Governor, but started to question where he was really heading.  Book 3 firmly cements Tomas’s position into the Queen’s Men and although he enjoys certain aspects, being knighted for example, Priest of Gallows really throws him into shark infested waters.  If you haven’t read the previous two instalments, well, I would suggest you do so, if you love fantasy then you simply have to read this series, but, also be aware that this review could include spoilers.

I’m not going to go into the plot other than to say – the Queen is dead and those who seek power are circling, pulling strings and manipulating the situation to their own advantage.  We learn that life in the capital, for all it’s nobles and finery, is little more than an exaggerated version of life on the gang infested streets of Ellinburg.  The people here live in fine houses and dress in fine clothes but the desire for power and wealth are much the same no matter how they dress and behave.  The only real difference here is that this is a fight for absolute power and the fights have the potential to morph into all out war.

The Queen’s Men, of which Tomas is now firmly a part, are like a secret force that are dreaded among the populace.  They’re talked of with fear, people warn their children about the Queen’s Men taking them away if they’re naughty, they’re like the bogeyman but worse and Tomas is now one of their number.  What really comes through here is how much Tomas is out of his depth.  This is a feeling that started in Priest of Lies and increased here.  Tomas finds himself really struggling to know who to trust.  Thankfully he has Bloody Anne, Rose and Billy accompanying him, characters that he knows have his back.  Ailsa also plays a role.  Estranged from Tomas since the Priest of Lies, their marriage was little more than a foil, but Tomas finds that he has feelings for Ailsa, as much as he tries not to and struggles to determine whether she is actually friend or foe.  We are introduced to Tomas’s counterparts in the Queen’s Men.  These are a mixed bag of characters with few redeeming qualities among their lot – some of them very appropriately named.  I love the politics at play here and the way the city is eventually whipped up into a frenzy, puppets whose strings are masterfully pulled by the Provost Marshal, Dieter Vogel.  Now the most powerful man in the City.  A man with a long vision who is not to be defied.

I have to say that I love the way McLean writes.  I found this book remarkably easy to get along with.  He has a way of simply pulling you immediately into the world.  Tomas isn’t necessarily a lovable character for example, and yet at the same time I find myself liking him.  He isn’t soft and cuddly and nor are the people he surrounds himself with.  They’re all sharp edged and hard, unafraid to do what is necessary and basically all soldiers at heart, they take orders and carry them out, as distasteful as those orders might sometimes be.  But, yes, they’re likable and they have won me over.

The other thing that I really love about this series is the overall message.  As we began, war was finally over, the battle hardened and weary soldiers returned home, traumatised by what they’d done and seen, now as the pages close on this third instalment, the inevitability of war yet again looms.  If history teaches us anything it’s that the same mistakes are likely to be repeated over and over again as the people in charge throw the public at large underneath the wheels of their gilded carriages in search of yet more power.

In case you haven’t guessed.  I’m absolutely loving this series and Priest of Gallows is my favourite instalment to date I can’t wait to read the final instalment, although ultimately I’m also scared for some of these characters that I’ve become so attached to.

I highly recommend the War for the Rose Throne.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.
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4.5 stars

One of my most anticipated reads this year, Peter McLean delivers another compelling and entertaining story. It's as dark and gritty as ever, and the stakes are higher.

I love Peter McLean's prose; it captivates me quickly and his characterization is top-notch. We learn more about the world and this is the most politically inclined book in the series. It started from a gangster story to political scheming. And if you read the previous books, you already know to expect blood, gore, chaos, and backstabbing.

The Priest of Gallows picks up months after Priest of Lies left off. With the Queen's sudden death, everything was in chaos. Tomas is summoned to the capital and only to bring his most trusted allies. As the story progresses, readers get more intimate with his thoughts and fears. Every step that he takes seems to end in disaster. And things are about to get worse, Tomas must learn to navigate his way through politics, betrayals, and lies or he might just end up dead.
His narration is one of the most distinct voices that I've read and also, one of the series' strengths.

Overall, Priest of Gallows is an inventive and explosive installment to the War for the Rose Throne series. It leaves promises of bigger things to come and I'm excited and scared about how the series will end. I highly recommend it to fans of grimdark fantasy.

Big thanks to Quercus Books/Jo Fletcher Books and Netgalley for the DRC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
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This is one of my most expected book in 2021 as I’m a huge fan of this series.
I fell in love with Priest of Bones and love all the novels in this series, each instalment better than the previous.
If you want a cosy fantasy series this is not the right one because it’s gritty and gory. But if you want a gripping, well written and brilliant fantasy series you got it.
It’s not easy to summarise my ideas as this was quite a rollercoaster of emotions and I was on the edge till the last page.
The author is talented storyteller and the story is told by Tomas Piety, one of my favorite characters of contemporary fantasy.
Tomas is complex, ruthless but also very human. He suffers from PTSD and is very loyal to his friends.
The arc of the character is very interesting because he started as a gangster and he’s something else at the end of this book but I’m not sure what the future evolution will be. 
In this novel we move from local politics to high level politics, to a world where everybody can betray you and you’re always at risk. You must choose who you can trust and you must choose how to act.
The description of life in Ellinburg are fascinating as they could be related to a lot of historical period. Someone saw elements of the plot as a depiction of some contemporary political regime. 
I don’t share this idea but i think that the Queen’s Men, they’re hierarchy and how they act  was quite common in the past and could be what’s happening in some authoritarian regimes. 
This is a digression but, as it happens with any excellent fantasy/sci-fi story, there’s always a thought provoking side.
That said I had a lot of fun in reading this gripping story. I loved every moment of it including the most gory part (Peter Mc Lean could give some idea to Marquis De Sade).
The world building is as good as always and we learn more about it.
I was glad to meet again Bloody Annie and Bill. They’re great character, fleshed out and well written. Character development is excellent.
One thing i loved above all: how Tomas’ voice reflected his emotions and his internal turmoil.
Last thing: I need to read Priest of Crowns soon, please don’t let me wait for 2 years.
I strongly recommend this novel and the entire series.
Many thanks to Jo Fletcher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Oh my god, how can the book end at that point? You can’t just leave it there, I need to know what happens next.

Priest of Gallows follows the continuing story of Tomas Piety, gangster, priest and Queen’s Man. The book sees the death of the queen, which turns out to be a very bad thing for the country. If you thought things were bad in the first two books, then it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

The story is intriguing. There is a heavy air of foreboding that carries through the entire book as the situation grows ever more dire. Tomas continues to be an excellent protagonist and narrator. His story is very interesting and by moving him away from Ellinburg to the political intrigue of the capital gives him something new to work with.

Then there’s Vogel. I don’t whether I should hate him for how devious he is or admire the lengths he is willing to go to in order to achieve his aims. As a character, I find him both odious and intriguing.

Priest of Gallows is just as dark and violent as the previous books, which is to be expected but it feels like it has grown from the fantasy Peaky Blinders of the first book. The characters are intriguing and I enjoy reading them and the story is becoming more and more intriguing. The ending was shocking, unexpected and it left me desperate to know how all of this is going to end because it felt like a huge game changer for the characters and the country they live in.

Bring on the final book because I cannot wait to read it.
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ARC provided by the publisher—Jo Fletcher—in exchange for an honest review.

4.5/5 stars

Priest of Gallows was addictive and instantly immersive as ever.

Oh my, it’s been two years since I’ve read Priest of Lies, and it’s good to be back here reading this series. For the uninitiated, War for the Rose Throne is one of my ongoing series at the moment, and Priest of Gallows, the third and penultimate installment in the series, is one of my most anticipated books of the year. Peter McLean has delivered another incredibly engaging volume, and Priest of Gallows may just be the most intimate and thought-provoking book of the series so far.

    “People may revere the idea of heroic veterans, but they very seldom have the time or the charity for the broken, battle-shocked men and women that are the reality of what war produces.” 

Priest of Gallows begins with an iconic first sentence: “One murder can change the fate of a nation.” And from there, we’re immediately back inside the narration of Tomas Piety, one of the most distinctive voices I’ve read in fantasy. Seriously, I have missed Tomas Piety’s narration. So much. I’ve said it times and times again, and another repetition shall be executed; the narration of Tomas Piety is truly one of the standout strengths of the series. I won’t go into any details on the plot because this is the penultimate installment already, and I don’t think I can touch on the details of the plotline without spoilers. However, it will benefit readers to know that this one is the series’ most political installment so far, and it’s all handled incredibly well. I never felt bored reading this book, and it was utterly captivating to me to be reading about Tomas’s struggle with navigating the land and treacheries of Dannsburg. As Tomas said, this is an entirely new territory of conflicts for him, and each step he took led him to deeper troubles.

    “The world of intrigues wasn’t my natural environment. I was a soldier and businessman, for Our Lady’s sake. Politics was a foreign country to me, and I would have been quite happy for it to stay that way, but it seemed that wasn’t going to be the case.” 

There was a passage where Tomas said that wartime makes more sense than peace now, and to hear that directly from Tomas is a big deal on how bad the situation is for him now. With a boss as smart, ruthless, and intimidating as Dieter Vogel, it is not a surprise that Tomas is facing a lot of struggles. This, of course, doesn’t mean that politics and betrayals are the only things that this novel has it going for. Surprisingly, Priest of Gallows dived inside Tomas’s psyche and feelings more than ever. It is an intimate book; there were several outbursts of emotions that were so heartbreaking and palpable. The past never lets up, and dramatic changes are constantly coming to the life of these characters. They have to deal with it the best they can. Those are the times they lived in.

    “Change, as I say. It’s something we all have to make our peace with, in time. It’s seldom pleasant and never easy, but it’s a fact of life and nothing to be done about that.” 

We have been in Dannsburg in Priest of Lies briefly, and in here, almost the entire narrative takes place in this city; the city of lies, whispers, and treachery. As I mentioned earlier, this is a heavily political novel, and there weren’t many battle scenes being showcased. But this doesn’t mean that McLean loses the steam power of the narration; dialogues, voices, intrigues were all brilliant. Plus, we still get to witness the terrifying display of cunning. Respect, power, and authority are the lever that moves Tomas Piety, and they’re scarce in Dannsburg. If there’s one thing that I wanted more out of Priest of Gallows, I wanted more interaction between Tomas and the Pious Men. It is understandable, though, that this isn’t possible here due to circumstances and the direction of the story.

    “No one is ever simply an enemy, a lone faceless thing to be fought and killed. That was what was drilled into us in the army, to be sure, but that didn’t make it true. Every enemy soldier in any conflict has a family back home, people who love them and depend on them, but the army doesn’t want you thinking of the enemy’s family when you ram a spear through his guts.” 

By the way, it was insane to hear that this series was almost canceled. Thankfully, that didn’t happen; the Goddess of Fortune has smiled, and she gave this series a chance to be completed. Publishing books can be a terrifying business sometimes, but those are the times we live in. I would’ve been emotionally distraught if this series was canceled; I love this series, and if it was canceled, I wouldn’t appear as a cameo in this book! Yes, I appear on a page in Priest of Gallows to be brutally murdered. How can I not love this series further? Thank you so much to Peter McLean, or Tomas Piety, for this honor.

Priest of Gallows is another thrilling work by Peter McLean. In addition to constructing the most thought-provoking narrative of the series so far, Priest of Gallows has also set the stage for a memorable climactic finale. War for the Rose Throne has only one book left, and I’m sure there will be no peace in it. Can McLean pull off the magnificent conclusion to the series? I’m sure he can. As Tomas Piety would say, he’s the right person for the right job, and he’s the right messenger for Tomas Piety’s story.

Official release date: 27th May 2021

You can pre-order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository (Free shipping) | The Broken Binding (Use my code: NOVELNOTIONS121 for discount!)

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
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Thomas Piety finally seems to have made it. No longer the leader of a band of thugs, he is now a wealthy, respected man and Governor of his home city. In private he is a Queen’s man, art of a shadowy underground organisation. It seems he has everything he’s ever wanted but the sudden death of the queen leaves him in the hands of a new ‘boss’ and Thomas’ stability is about to be shaken to pieces. Following the unusual, war scarred MC, McClean takes the reader on a tavern crawl through the seedier side of dark fantasy, peopled with gangsters, cutthroats and streetwise ladies of the night. The pressure really cranks up in this instalment and Thomas’ previous wins are no reason to relax. I feel this is building to a very bloody conclusion in future. Great series.
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Fuck a nun, Priest of Gallows was yet another great installment in the War for the Rose Throne series by Peter McLean. If you haven’t started the series yet, I highly recommend you do so because the final book will be something to behold, I’m sure. But until then, here are my reviews for Priest of Bones and Priest of Lies if you need some more persuasion. I’m having a pretty hard time with reading recently, but I pretty much devoured Priest of Gallows in a matter of days (well, not including those on which I did not read for reasons). It definitely did some good to my reading slump.

Priest of Gallows takes the events up a few months after the end of Priest of Lies, which I admit threw me a little. I expected to be dropped right into the aftermath of the battle and I was ready to curse McLean if anything happened to Billy the Boy. Instead, we get a glimpse of a moment of peacefulness. Which obviously doesn’t last as news arrives from Dannsburg. And thus, Tomas gets swept into court politics played by rules he doesn’t quite understand at first, but intends to play nonetheless.

I’m not going into the plot here, because I’d rather not spoil the fun, but if you followed Tomas Piety until this point, then you probably have a fair idea of what to expect: blood, mayhem, backstabbing, an unhealthy dose of cunning and a lot of mindfuckery. Tomas tries to navigate his way through Dannsburg society as a Queen’s Man, testing his powers and tolerance for being fucked with. I found it curious that it took him quite a lot of time to find his footings and start to make his own moves in the game, but that just makes me want to read the last book so much more.

“No one is ever simply an enemy, a lone faceless thing to be fought and killed. That was what was drilled into us in the army, to be sure, but that didn’t make it true.”

I like how the War for the Rose Throne series shifts from a story of a gangster into a political backstabbery with continually growing stakes as Tomas gets deeper and deeper into it all. Lucky for him, there are some people to keep his stubborn ass in line and his head clear when needed – Bloody Anne most of them all, who keeps being the most loyal friend anyone could wish for. And of course Billy the Boy who is still creepy but also still my favorite character and man, we need much more of him. Oh and I just adored the hell out of how Tomas was handling him. I just love their relationship and wish we could see more of that side of Tomas. I was happy to see Mr. Shapoor making a come back and I have a feeling that he might have a bigger role to play at one point.

There were some things I didn’t see coming, and I admit that for a long time I had no idea where the book was going – but then, it became clear which way one character’s plans were heading and then it was interesting to watch how and when Tomas will catch up and react. All in all, the end game definitely will be interesting.

Three books into the series, and I still have no idea what makes this world of Peter McLean‘s so damn compelling. It’s not that Tomas Piety is a person you usually would root for as he is not something you’d call a good man, but he also isn’t entirely without morale and honor. The thing about him is that he feels so goddamn real, as well as all the other characters. They aren’t just characters, they are people. Like that time when Tomas wants to act on first instinct, out of anger, and then later comes to his senses and rethinks his options. We all make mistakes, and Tomas is sure not an exception, but what makes a difference is how we handle those mistakes, and whether we learn from them or not. It’s also fascinating to experience how the Queen’s Men operate through Tomas’ eyes. It brings to mind modern-day secret intelligence services such as the KGB. I’m sure this is going to end so well…

“Change, as I say. It’s something we all have to make our peace with, in time. It’s seldom pleasant and never easy, but it’s a fact of life and nothing to be done about that.”

As for criticism, sometimes I wished things would slow down a bit, that we could get more time to explore relationships, events, places – at some places things felt a bit rushed to me. Then again, I wanted to spend more time in this book, so there is that.

All my ramblings aside, Priest of Gallows is another great addition to a series that already been on my list of favorites. This book only just strengthened that place. Priest of Gallows is a raw, gut-wrenching, and unputdownable page-turner, where you can never know if it’ll be Remorse or Mercy cutting your heart out next. You can try and hide from the inevitable, but at the end of the day, you just have to join Tomas’ crew and hold tight because the road won’t be smooth and painless, that’s for sure.
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We're in a state of regression. In addition to the pandemic crippling our economies, the world's collective mindset seems to be facing backward, leaning into the old behaviors that divide us. While social injustice, disgraceful political leadership, and basic intolerance of our neighbors continue to plague us, we are once again on the road to repeating the same acts of horror and suppression that we claimed to have overcome in the past century. It is times like these when artists' voices are more important than ever. Writers, musicians, comedians, filmmakers, and countless others all have the opportunity to share new ideas to remind us where we came from and where we need to go during these dark and challenging times. 

Enter: Priest of Gallows. Surface level, this is another hugely entertaining read; an excellent addition to the Tomas Piety saga, who has one of the most distinct narrative voices I've encountered in literary fiction. McLean's writing hits like a two-bottle brandy hangover: easy to digest, but leaves a sour aftertaste once settled. Spending time in Piety's head is a blast: a no-bullshit, street-smart gangster with PTSD and family issues, he's nearly impossible to rattle, and keeps his thoughts and emotions closely guarded. Joining Tomas as he ascends the ranks of the rotten core of central government carries plenty of dark humor and vile acts of treachery. Great stuff. 

Digging a bit deeper, it's plain to see that this is not a subtle story. McLean is firing warning shots with heavy-handed metaphors throughout this story. It almost reads like a history book. The city is set in Ellinberg, which sounds like a portmanteau of Berlin and St. Petersberg. Piety's story centers on his ascension through the Queen's Men -- essentially, the KGB -- who uses a Gulag-like torture chamber in the basement of the 'house of law,' reserved for whoever the hell the government wants to throw in there, regardless of guilt. I'll wager a guess that head torturer Ilse is a proxy for Auschwitz SS monster Irma Grese.

Dieter Vogel, Piety's boss and head of the Queen's Men, has come into power in a years-long plan similar to the Hitler he emulates. There is a group of peaceful, educated magician scholars, recognized by their seven-pointed star - symbolically close to the Star of David - who take on the role of the Jews, and become targets of genocide by Vogel's pure racism, ignorance, and hatred. Fellow Queensman Iagin is the Goebbels-like head of propaganda, while all the internal civil unrest is blamed on the neighboring Polish-like Skanians.

There were a couple of times these metaphors went over the top. There was a reference to a wall being built, and a word-for-word repetition of a popular groan-inducing phrase was touted by Piety that was far too on-the-nose. Another example was when Piety was noticing that the more indoctrinated he was becoming in his KGB-like role and the worse his actions were becoming, the more his excuses sounded like a Nazi who was 'just following orders.' 

Not only did I like this book, I appreciated it. I think it's an important and timely release that serves as a warning sign and reminder of the horror from whence we came, and the danger of following in its footsteps. It's also a hell of a good time, and serves up a damn fine cliffhanger for the end of Piety's story. There's a lot of ground yet to cover, and some exciting revelations and dangling loose ends have me lined up and ready for the conclusion. But first, the liquor store is calling. I'm fresh out of brandy and I can't let that pass.
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Once again Peter McLean has knocked it so far out of the park it’s gonna take years to find the ball. If you like Grimdark in general (or just GOT) then you MUST get onto this series. Priest of Gallows is the third book in this four book series (The War for the Rose Throne) and boy it’s a doozy. Told in first person by main character Tomas Piety, you get an close up perspective of Piety’s experiences, thoughts, fears and decision making process. Book two left us with Piety now the governor of Ellinburg having given Bloody Anne control of the Pious Boys. This ex-soldier and ex-mob boss’s life seems to be moving up. As with anything in this world designed by the incredible mind of Peter McLean what seems to be and what is are totally different prospects.

It seems that every decision, every step taken by Tomas Piety is just one step further into trouble. 

He is summoned by the head of the Queen’s Men to the Capital. It necessitates another change in fortune. He must hand over his governorship and take only his most trusted with him. The summons worries him and with good reason. The Queen’s Men are spies and assassins for the Queen. So what happens to them if the Queen dies? Piety is soon embroiled is espionage of the highest order. Even the secrets have secrets in the Capital. And the Queen’s Men are at the top of the food chain. Still, everyone answers to someone. And Piety must be careful who he trusts. He is a soldier – he knows how to follow orders – and here he is but the Blade, but the Capital is rumbling.  Politics, Deceit, Truth, Betrayal and Ruin lie at every turn. And the war Piety would never see return is right around the corner. How well he plays the game will show where his loyalties lie and whether he and his closest allies will survive the coming storm.

The world building in this dark series is exquisite. If you don’t like brutal, bloody scenes it’s NOT the series for you. But if you love the dark, gritty brutality of Game of Thrones then this is the series for you.

The reality of mob mentality is brutal and cruel within the capital. And Priest of Gallows really explores how little it truly takes to turn a populous into a deadly mob. Ellinburg, and Piety’s Pious Men are a holiday by comparison. 

If you have read the previous two books, I thoroughly recommend getting this one as soon as it is out at the end of May. A gripping, gritty read. I adore Peter McLean’s writing style. It sucks me in quickly, immersing me in Ellinburg, the Capital, the streets, the palace, upper and lower town and everywhere in between. His characterization is top notch. From Bloody Anne’s endless loyalty, to Ailsa’s lies, to Beast’s trust, to Vogel’s machinations, to Billy’s inherent danger and love and the Princess’s madness. The political games played are as horrible as you would expect, the power grabs fast and brutal and layered. You don’t really know who to trust and the storm is coming.

I am excitedly waiting for the gripping conclusion to this brutal and bloody tale.
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This series rocks! Thomas Piety's history is both brutal and fascinating to follow. I can't believe there's only one book left. I confess, and there's no shame in it, that I dread what McLean has in store for his characters. After THIS ending, only mayhem can ensue.

Thomas's distinct voice immersed me in the story. Priest, he may be, among other things, but he doesn't pray often. Why would he? Lady of Eternal Sorrows doesn't answer prayers, after all. His backstory is rooted in violence and trauma. He suffers from PTSD and McLean catches such moments with great skill.

Thomas enjoys respect, power, and authority and in this installment, he gets more of those than he can stomach. After Queen's sudden death his superior, Dieter Vogel, summons him back to the capital. The events that ensue force Thomas to reconsider if he's on the right side and if he's willing to pay the price of immense power.

"Queen's Men were fucking gangsters and there was no other way to look at it, once you saw the truth of the thing. Our country was basically run by gangsters."

Thomas may not be an educated man but he's not a fool, either. His instinct and wit allow him to navigate complex politics, and challenging emotions he would rather not experience. His voice remains rough and brutally honest. Thomas knows he's not right in the head and doesn't make a secret of it. He knows who he cares for, though, and the moments he spends with his friends and adopted son add some lightness to the otherwise dark story.

The story ends on a strong note, not exactly a cliffhanger, rather at a point where a lot is in balance. So, I need the fourth book asap but I'm also afraid of what happens next.
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