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A Conspiracy of Truths

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In a bleak, far-northern land, a wandering storyteller is arrested on charges of witchcraft. Though Chant protests his innocence, he is condemned not only as a witch, but a spy. His only chance to save himself rests with the skills he has honed for decades – tell a good story, catch and hold their attention, or die. But the attention he catches is that of the five elected r In a bleak, far-northern land, a wandering storyteller is arrested on charges of witchcraft. Though Chant protests his innocence, he is condemned not only as a witch, but a spy. His only chance to save himself rests with the skills he has honed for decades – tell a good story, catch and hold their attention, or die. But the attention he catches is that of the five elected rulers of the country, and Chant finds himself caught in a tangled, corrupt political game which began long before he ever arrived here. As he’s snatched from one Queen’s grasp to another’s, he realizes that he could either be a pawn for one of them… or a player in his own right. After all, he knows better than anyone how powerful the right story can be: Powerful enough to save a life, certainly. Perhaps even powerful enough to bring a nation to its knees. ("Fanfic"-style tags for this book can be found here: https://twitter.com/_alexrowland/stat... (May contain very slight spoilers))


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In a bleak, far-northern land, a wandering storyteller is arrested on charges of witchcraft. Though Chant protests his innocence, he is condemned not only as a witch, but a spy. His only chance to save himself rests with the skills he has honed for decades – tell a good story, catch and hold their attention, or die. But the attention he catches is that of the five elected r In a bleak, far-northern land, a wandering storyteller is arrested on charges of witchcraft. Though Chant protests his innocence, he is condemned not only as a witch, but a spy. His only chance to save himself rests with the skills he has honed for decades – tell a good story, catch and hold their attention, or die. But the attention he catches is that of the five elected rulers of the country, and Chant finds himself caught in a tangled, corrupt political game which began long before he ever arrived here. As he’s snatched from one Queen’s grasp to another’s, he realizes that he could either be a pawn for one of them… or a player in his own right. After all, he knows better than anyone how powerful the right story can be: Powerful enough to save a life, certainly. Perhaps even powerful enough to bring a nation to its knees. ("Fanfic"-style tags for this book can be found here: https://twitter.com/_alexrowland/stat... (May contain very slight spoilers))

30 review for A Conspiracy of Truths

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    A Conspiracy of Truths is a story about people and what makes them tick. And it's a story about stories. And it's a story about stories that tell you what makes people tick. And if you love stories (I mean, you're reading this, aren't you?) Rowland's debut is one you should not miss out on. Admittedly, the book wasn't quite what I was expecting. I went into it anticipating something similar to 1001 Nights and In the Night Garden--something whimsical and fantastical--and it took me a while to adju A Conspiracy of Truths is a story about people and what makes them tick. And it's a story about stories. And it's a story about stories that tell you what makes people tick. And if you love stories (I mean, you're reading this, aren't you?) Rowland's debut is one you should not miss out on. Admittedly, the book wasn't quite what I was expecting. I went into it anticipating something similar to 1001 Nights and In the Night Garden--something whimsical and fantastical--and it took me a while to adjust to the fact that A Conspiracy of Truths is an entirely different beast. That's not to say there aren't stories within stories in this book (or that they're not fantastical). We get more than a dozen of them and they serve many purposes: they're used to educate a person on a subject, to deceive and coerce, or to simply pass the time. But the book is less about the stories themselves and more about their...anatomy. The shape of them. While the content of the stories are important, they're not quite as important as what they say about the storyteller and the storyreceiver. How they're told, how they're interpreted, how they're reacted to--all of that can tell you so much of a person and that's the beauty of stories. A Conspiracy of Truths is the ultimate love letter to stories and the idea that people--all people--are pattern finders. The way we look for meaning in chaos, draw through random dots, seeing pictures and creating stories out of them. And sometimes such stories have the power to upturn nations. It takes a stronger soul than me to not fall headlong in love with a message like that. Okay, enough vague gushing. Let's get to the meat of it. Our story begins when Chant--our illustrious, elderly, cantankerous storyteller--gets arrested and charged with witchcraft, espionage, and brazen impertinence while passing through Nuryevet, a country where polyamory is the norm, the government divided into five Queens and Kings, and nearly everything requires the signing of paperwork (including visits to the brothel). Chant soon discovers that Nureyviet is rotten to the core with all manner of corruption--assassinations, nepotism, bribery. Things he wouldn't normally give a toss about, but with his neck on the line and his execution date drawing near, he realizes that to save himself he must first save this country from itself. What can a 70-year old man do from the confines of a cell, you may ask? Well, Chant isn't without allies. In his corner he's got one very reluctant but talented advocate; one kindhearted, though a tad naive, apprentice; said apprentice's boyfriend (who has very beautiful handwriting); and of course, the greatest weapon at his disposal--his stories. Chant isn't an easy character to like and he knows it. While undoubtedly entertaining, I found his fiery personality somewhat exhausting in the beginning. But then he started growing on me, and at some point he went from grating on my nerves to pulling at my heartstrings and plastering a grin on my face. I don't know when it happened, but I do know why. It's his love of stories and understanding of the human heart that ultimately won me over, and by the end I would have happily fought Ylfing for the apprentice position. Speaking of which, his relationship with Ylfing was hands-down my favourite part of the book. The teenager's sweet and unassuming personality contrasts so wonderfully with Chant's grumpy cynicism, and despite all of Chant's "I don't care" attitude, the love shared between them is palpable. Their scenes range from hilarious to intellectually provocative to tear-jerking and I would gladly read five more books about their adventures. Aside from Ylfing, most of the side characters in the story are women. Diverse women. Women who are flawed and decidedly not nice. Women who stand up for what they believe is right even if it means losing everything else. Soldiers, lawyers, politicians, mothers--Rowland gives a platform for all, which is so gratifying to see in a fantasy novel. The side characters also serve as Chant's eyes and ears. A story has no right to be this entertaining when its narrator spends most of his time locked up in cells, but at no point does it feel claustrophobic. These characters constantly come and go carrying news and stories and just the sheer magnetism of their personalities, and you soon forget that you barely know what this country even looks like. Plot-wise, it's a lot more politics-heavy than I'd expected. You get thrown a lot of names and info from the get-go and it took me a good 1/3 of the book to get settled into it. But from then on I was fully hooked. I'm pretty sure my initial disengagement has to do with my shoddy memory and lack of note-taking, so a word of advice: write notes on the key political players as they come up. There are books that make you ponder the nature of humans. There are books that have you on the edge of your seat, brows furrowed and biting your nails. And there are books that leaves you smiling and feeling good about the world. And this book? This book manages all three. Review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    DEAR FUCKING GOD THIS TOOK FOREVER FOR ME TO READ. The book didn't start becoming engrossing for me until about page 200, almost halfway through, and then I finished the rest in three days. Ugh. I kept expecting the story to be different than what it ended up being. It has touches in its world-building that begs for the story to be an world-sweeping epic, but aside from the different stories Chant tells, the book stays in one country and its politics and quirks the entire time, and I kept waiting DEAR FUCKING GOD THIS TOOK FOREVER FOR ME TO READ. The book didn't start becoming engrossing for me until about page 200, almost halfway through, and then I finished the rest in three days. Ugh. I kept expecting the story to be different than what it ended up being. It has touches in its world-building that begs for the story to be an world-sweeping epic, but aside from the different stories Chant tells, the book stays in one country and its politics and quirks the entire time, and I kept waiting for the story to expand beyond the scope of this one country, but it never happened. And it's just one book, not one of a series. And I've been preferring one-offs! But something about this book makes me miffed that all this care and attention and detail went into all these other countries and peoples we'll never see and instead we spent the entire time in the fantasy equivalent of Yeltsin-and-Putin-era Russia, which, OK fine, but for whatever reason the fantasy version made me feel really irritated. Maybe because (given the book was publicized as a fantasy about "fake news"), the actual politics bear a strong resemblance to both current U.S. politics and post-2000 Russian politics, which are ridiculous but horrifying to read about in real life and but the narrative-defying nature of these politics is irritating when it's in a book where you still have to hew to a narrative so that your story actually does something. So it feels like the fact that "this is a book with a narrative" but also "this countries' politics and its people are disinterested in or defy attempts at narratives" are in conflict with each other. IDK, I'm still trying to figure out why my primary emotion towards this book is annoyance. The writing is good and the characters were fine. Maybe I'm getting old (lol) or maybe the luster of reading books about stories and storytelling has finally worn off for me, but all the bits and asides about that subject...it was fine, it wasn't shoehorned in, it wasn't clunky or overwrought, but I also didn't care very much. Overall this book was one huge frustration for me, except it's hard for me to pin down exactly *why*, and of course it was a highly anticipated book that's been positively reviewed, so of course now I'm battling the feeling that the problem's on my end that I didn't like this book. Bah.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rosie

    will update with THOUGHTS when i am not INCONSOLABLE over there being NO MORE OF THIS BOOK to put STRAIGHT INTO MY EYEBALLS

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lauren James

    An old man is trapped in prison, accused of witchcraft. An old man who has spent his life learning how to tell stories, and manipulate perceptions. An old man who will do anything to get free. An old man, who single-handedley manages to take down an entire government from a prison cell.....

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Mace

    Take one desperate, curmudgeonly old storyteller on trial for witchcraft. Add one undermotivated and deeply unimpressed lawyer who just wants to go home to her wives and husband. Pepper with a sprinkling of paranoid, trigger-happy nominally-elected fantasy despots and stir vigorously with the aide of some, shall we say, 'creative' storytelling. Garnish with the softest, most precious apprentice to never deserve the disaster about to befall him and everyone he cares about - and now you have A Con Take one desperate, curmudgeonly old storyteller on trial for witchcraft. Add one undermotivated and deeply unimpressed lawyer who just wants to go home to her wives and husband. Pepper with a sprinkling of paranoid, trigger-happy nominally-elected fantasy despots and stir vigorously with the aide of some, shall we say, 'creative' storytelling. Garnish with the softest, most precious apprentice to never deserve the disaster about to befall him and everyone he cares about - and now you have A Conspiracy of Truths. I can't possibly convey the gems hidden between these covers - go read the sample pages, and you'll get a glimpse of what I mean. Chant's voice is incorrigible and impossible to put down. His foes are, by turns, ridiculous and terrifying. The consequences of his actions are chilling and the way his stories spiral out of his control is a terrifying reflection of our own society. The stories themselves are perfect jewels of fairytale, at once alien and somehow deeply familiar. And every single character has a heart and a core that leaps off the page. Put your hours in Rowland's hands. You won't regret it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Freya Marske

    I got to sink my teeth into an ARC of this one courtesy of (disclaimer) MY DEAR FRIEND ALEX, who has written a joyfully layered and frequently hilarious story about stories. And about storytellers. And about the power of narrative to alter reality, and what happens when one person wielding that power out of sheer survival instinct sets off a chain of events that takes apart a nation. The sheer amount of imagination and attention to worldbuilding detail in this made me want to weep with jealousy, I got to sink my teeth into an ARC of this one courtesy of (disclaimer) MY DEAR FRIEND ALEX, who has written a joyfully layered and frequently hilarious story about stories. And about storytellers. And about the power of narrative to alter reality, and what happens when one person wielding that power out of sheer survival instinct sets off a chain of events that takes apart a nation. The sheer amount of imagination and attention to worldbuilding detail in this made me want to weep with jealousy, and the style of narration is so irreverent and fun (and unreliable) that it pulled me along effortlessly. I had a great time listening to Chant spin me this particular tale, and I suspect you will too.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Kotar

    DNF. Not enough to keep me interested. Initially, both main characters were interesting. But there's simply not enough going on to keep me engaged.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    4.0 out of 5 stars Based on the book cover and description alone, I was expecting this to be a deadly serious high fantasy tale. What greeted me instead was an unexpectedly delightful story featuring a wonderfully eccentric narrator named Chant. Chant is an irascible traveling raconteur with a sharp tongue who tells stories to anyone who lends a year (and some who don’t). These stories are presented as interludes interspersed throughout the book — most come from Chant’s voice, but some are tales t 4.0 out of 5 stars Based on the book cover and description alone, I was expecting this to be a deadly serious high fantasy tale. What greeted me instead was an unexpectedly delightful story featuring a wonderfully eccentric narrator named Chant. Chant is an irascible traveling raconteur with a sharp tongue who tells stories to anyone who lends a year (and some who don’t). These stories are presented as interludes interspersed throughout the book — most come from Chant’s voice, but some are tales told to him from others. Each story is complete with Chant’s internal monologue criticizing haphazard storytelling techniques or adding footnotes and flair to his own words. Chant presents as an omniscient presence who understands so much about the world but he struggles to grapple with his own emotions. He would rather believe that he’s having a heart attack than feeling excited or that his face is sweating rather than tearing up. It’s a fun personality quirk that adds some depth to what could’ve been a straightforward, one-note character. I wasn’t consistently sucked into the overall plot nor did I always understand the court hierarchies and politics at play, but this is The Chant Show, pure and simple — the story flowed beautifully from him and out into the world. When writing a book about a gifted storyteller, it helps to be a gifted storyteller. Luckily, author Alexandra Rowland shows a knack for spinning a charming and heartwarming yarn. A Conspiracy of Truths is an impressive and enchanting novel that was a joy to read. I hope to read Rowland’s subsequent works and perhaps more about Chant’s past and future adventures, as well. My thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. See this review and others at The Speculative Shelf.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Felicia Davin

    This is a fantasy novel about the power of storytelling--the main character, Chant, is a wandering storyteller who gets wrongfully arrested and then sets about bringing down the government of the entire country from inside his prison cell. The narration is wry and engaging, the characters are complex and real, and I loved all of the embedded tales. The worldbuilding in this book is absolutely superb. Also, one of the embedded tales has a central plot point about historical phonology, and that won This is a fantasy novel about the power of storytelling--the main character, Chant, is a wandering storyteller who gets wrongfully arrested and then sets about bringing down the government of the entire country from inside his prison cell. The narration is wry and engaging, the characters are complex and real, and I loved all of the embedded tales. The worldbuilding in this book is absolutely superb. Also, one of the embedded tales has a central plot point about historical phonology, and that won my nerd heart forever.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Aiyesha

    How To Limbo Your Way Out Of A Witchcraft Accusation In Twelve Easy Steps* *Social Revolution And Total Governmental Upheaval Optional, But Highly Recommended

  11. 4 out of 5

    Abi Walton

    What a wonderful book. I have wanted to read this Novel for ages and was so excited when it arrived on my doorstep. This book is beautiful! It's about the power of storytelling and how magical tales are. Our protagonist, Chant, is an old travelling storyteller who earns his way through his knowledge of people, myth and legend. I read Rowland's "In The End" and instantly knew I was going to adore "A Conspiracy of Truths. Rowland's writing style is lyrical, fascinating and driven by characterisati What a wonderful book. I have wanted to read this Novel for ages and was so excited when it arrived on my doorstep. This book is beautiful! It's about the power of storytelling and how magical tales are. Our protagonist, Chant, is an old travelling storyteller who earns his way through his knowledge of people, myth and legend. I read Rowland's "In The End" and instantly knew I was going to adore "A Conspiracy of Truths. Rowland's writing style is lyrical, fascinating and driven by characterisation which I have always loved. The Worldbuilding is captivating and Beautiful and has left me desperately wanting more. I cannot wait to see where Rowland takes this series (?). I am left desperately wanting to see more of these characters and wondering if maybe Ylfing will be our next protagonist as he becomes his own traveller and Chant?

  12. 5 out of 5

    sigaloenta

    Perhaps I'm being a bit hard on this book, only giving it three stars, because after a rocky beginning it was pretty enjoyable: well-written, well-paced, with reasonably engaging characters, a narrator who turned out to be not as irritating as he at first appeared, and moderately interesting themes. It's certainly much better on a technical level (on any technical level you like) than most other speculative fiction being published right now. Moderately interesting themes -- the power of stories, Perhaps I'm being a bit hard on this book, only giving it three stars, because after a rocky beginning it was pretty enjoyable: well-written, well-paced, with reasonably engaging characters, a narrator who turned out to be not as irritating as he at first appeared, and moderately interesting themes. It's certainly much better on a technical level (on any technical level you like) than most other speculative fiction being published right now. Moderately interesting themes -- the power of stories, the contingencies of politics and randomness of history, the complicatedness of people -- but not all of them were done in a very interesting way. The last was. This book is unusual and outstanding in recent fantasy for its cast of truly mixed characters: no heroes here (well, except for the protagonist and his apprentice), no saints (again, largely excepting these two), but no villains for whom we don't also feel a shred of admiration or sympathy, and no engaging sympathetic character whom we don't also see full of sins -- and not just romantic antihero, "gray and gray" morality sins either. I mean stupidity, short-sightedness, the ability to self-delude-- the sort of flaws that fantasy novels usually pretend don't exist or treat with the utmost disdain when they do. The other themes, however... this is a novel that thinks it has a lot of Deep Things to say about stories and the power of stories. Unfortunately, it doesn't, really. Yes, yes, stories have the power to change minds. People hear what they already believe or want to believe to be true. Tales can be Truer than the mere truth. These kind of truisms flatter the reader and writer both, so I understand why they are deployed (stories are powerful, dontcha know! Especially the ones we tell ourselves!) But there was nothing new here. Too easily, for a novel that purports to be about complexity and contingency, Chant quickly becomes central and all-contriving in the political landscape (surely there are other peddlers of stories to the powerful, even in Nuryvet?) and the narrative loses a lot of interest in the second half as it becomes apparent where Chant is and whom he is narrating to-- and therefore how this story must end. Ultimately, Rowland gave us a narrator whose schtick is storytelling, but didn't allow any of that vaunted power to spill over into the story he was telling us. And that's unfortunate.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Federico Bergstein

    MEH

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aster Marks

    OH MAN! This book is so freaking good. Like, edge of your seat, yelling at the main character, worrying out lout to your friends good. This book grabs you by the collar from the very first page and proceeds to drag you on an adventure through political intrigue, amazing stories, and a very sweet boy who deserves the best. Things I Love About This Book: - Chant. Everything about him as a narrator pushes this book forward. The whole story is being told orally, which can be distracting in some cases, OH MAN! This book is so freaking good. Like, edge of your seat, yelling at the main character, worrying out lout to your friends good. This book grabs you by the collar from the very first page and proceeds to drag you on an adventure through political intrigue, amazing stories, and a very sweet boy who deserves the best. Things I Love About This Book: - Chant. Everything about him as a narrator pushes this book forward. The whole story is being told orally, which can be distracting in some cases, but works perfectly with the tone and themes of this book. - Ylfing. My sweet, wonderful baby. I have no coherent words about his amazingness. Instead, I shall offer my incoherent wails of how he deserves a boy who will treat him right. - The Stories. This book is full of stories-within-a-story. Rowland has a firm grasp on how to worldbuild, and offers many cultures, all with mythos so rich you could reach out and grab them. So many good stories that all push the story forward, but even if they didn't, you should still read them because they're so seamlessly worked in. - The Voice. Rowland has such a strong grasp on how to write a diverse cast of characters, each of whom has their own voice. Stories take on a wild, almost lofty tone, full of wonder. Characters each have their own habits, voices, and are so 3D you expect them to jump off the page. Things I Loved Slightly Less: - Some things are slightly confusing on a first readthrough. It took me a few reads to understand every reference, which is fun, but can slightly pull you out of the immersion of the story. Some things about the world aren't immediately obvious and are never explained(view spoiler)[, like the degrees of crime (hide spoiler)] but they're minor and only noticeable if you really pick the book apart. - The names of the Queens were, at least to me, easily confused on a first readthrough, but this could well have had to do with the speed I was trying to read the book with. On subsequent reads, they were much easier to keep separate. Overall, an amazing read, with amazing plot and amazing characters. Please read this book and then scream about it with me.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alyshondra

    Ok. This book. You know when you are tootling along, enjoying a book, appreciating the craft and the snarkiness when all of a sudden you realize that this book has worked it’s way inside of you to be written on your bones? It happens slowly, without noticing, and then you just have to stop for a minute and take a breath and appreciate how this book is now just a part of you. That is A Conspiracy of Truth for me. The stories Chant (and others!) tell are amazing. We get a feel for the whole wide wo Ok. This book. You know when you are tootling along, enjoying a book, appreciating the craft and the snarkiness when all of a sudden you realize that this book has worked it’s way inside of you to be written on your bones? It happens slowly, without noticing, and then you just have to stop for a minute and take a breath and appreciate how this book is now just a part of you. That is A Conspiracy of Truth for me. The stories Chant (and others!) tell are amazing. We get a feel for the whole wide world, even though it’s set in this one city. There are legends and creation myths and silly joke tales and tales with poetry and riddles. Everyone tells with a different voice. My favorite (can I even pick?) is the creation myth. The range of female characters in this is just FANTASTIC. Women are all sorts of people, and it is SO GOOD. ALSO: Visible galaxy and two moons in the sky. I swoon for thought-out astronomy. NOT TO MENTION the actual cinnamon roll too good and pure for this world. Still mad we have to wait ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY THREE PAGES to meet him. The author created fanfic style tags that you can see on their website: https://www.alexandrarowland.net/. This delights me, and I want more authors to do this please. There is SO MUCH MORE, but I want you to experience it yourself. Go and read. I got an ARC, cause I am very lucky.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Marzie

    This book is just a sheer delight. As I told Alex Can Read who steered me to this book, I laughed so often that it was a tonic in these dark times. A Conspiracy of Truths is about a storyteller and his stories within his larger story, like the famed Arabian Nights or Catherynne Valente's The Orphan's Tales. We have a cantankerous old storyteller who we can call Chant (a title, not a name, and you're not getting a name because for religious reasons he won't tell you so don't bother asking, you in This book is just a sheer delight. As I told Alex Can Read who steered me to this book, I laughed so often that it was a tonic in these dark times. A Conspiracy of Truths is about a storyteller and his stories within his larger story, like the famed Arabian Nights or Catherynne Valente's The Orphan's Tales. We have a cantankerous old storyteller who we can call Chant (a title, not a name, and you're not getting a name because for religious reasons he won't tell you so don't bother asking, you insolent cur because it's none of your business) who has been charged with black witchcraft. Well, that and brazen impertinence. (Yes, that's a charge.) Oh, and the espionage charge, because hanging out with pirates and spies, while great for your storytelling archive, is probably ill-advised if you plan to go to Nuryevet. Frankly, I'd really suggest you avoid going to Nuryevet. But, okay, if you're reading this book, you're effectively there. Watch out for the Queens. The Queen of Justice, the Queen of Pattern... wait, Queen of Secrets? (Do Secrets have Patterns?) Then there's the Queen of Order and the Queen of Coin...Wait, no... Queen of Gold? Penny Queen? Dragon Queen? (scary!) These are all mostly elected positions, by the by. And as in any political system there are fights for power, position, dominance, information, and oh, you get it. Poor Chant. They fight over Chant. What does he know? So much, but some of it is embedded in stories. He must be hiding something. Is he a spy? A blackwitch? His public defender Consanza is all but useless, preoccupied, a seeming narcissist. She's never lost a case before the Court of Justice. Will Chant's be the first if she keeps his case? And Yfling, Chant's young and kind apprentice... gosh knows how he will fare in this den of political wolves. Poor boy will probably end in tears. Tears of joy? Tears of relief? So look, this book is worth your time but just keep your cards close to your chest. Don't mention who you know and spent time sailing with, or anything you might have heard about royalty in other courts, or anything you know about border skirmishes, or really just... just shut up and read. Or listen. Because I waited to listen to the start of the newly released audiobook and it's super. If you ever wanted a story in which you could imagine a totally snarky character like Elliot from In Other Lands grew up and grew old after visiting all the border and other lands and had a bunch of allegorical stories and intrigue to share, this is your book. And if you don't want to read a story with snarky, cantankerous characters, shame on you! What are you thinking?! P.S. A Story Over the summer I attended a WorldCon Kaffeeklatsch hosted by Saga editor Navah Wolfe. Navah described what she was looking for when she looks at submissions. She described a situation in which a book, no matter how weird (you mean like seventy-something snarky and cursing protagonist who is charged with multiple trumped up crimes?) just GRABS YOU. Yep. I see what she means by that... I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from Saga Press via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amelia L. Kinch

    From the first line of the book, Chant takes your hand and guides you into a world unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It stops being a thing-you-are-reading and starts being an active experience. It feels like you get to live this book in real time alongside Chant. There’s no excruciating slow build, no dry exposition. You take one step in and it’s like you’ve come home to an old friend. On a more literary note, A Conspiracy of Truths takes a look at classic storytelling elements and chall From the first line of the book, Chant takes your hand and guides you into a world unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It stops being a thing-you-are-reading and starts being an active experience. It feels like you get to live this book in real time alongside Chant. There’s no excruciating slow build, no dry exposition. You take one step in and it’s like you’ve come home to an old friend. On a more literary note, A Conspiracy of Truths takes a look at classic storytelling elements and challenges them to go bigger. It reminds readers that we haven’t--nor will we ever--reach the limits of what fantasy can be. All of the above is a very flowy and fancy way of saying that Alex Rowland assembled an amalgam of tired and overused tropes, brought it to life, then challenged it to a knife fight in a Denny’s parking lot. The result is fucking awesome. This book had me laughing so hard that the cats started refusing to sit next to me as I was reading, and crying so hard my spouse woke up at 3AM to come ask me if I was okay. I hadn’t put the book down since I’d intended to “just read one chapter” at 10PM. I ended up finishing the whole damn thing in one sitting. As a demi and non-binary author, Alex Rowland is fiercely dedicated to fighting the old classics of “we have one (1) woman character and she’s super hot,” or who could forget “people of colour weren’t invented until about ten (10) years ago.” The main character is a curmudgeonly older black man with a wicked sense of humour and a razor sharp tongue. His apprentice is a young gay man whose capacity for love and kindness belong in a Pixar movie. His lawyer is a bisexual, polyamorous, middle aged woman who loves her three spouses, her kids, and is 50 shades of done with Chant’s bullshit. There is an asexual character, a character with disabilities, a dyslexic character… And that’s just stuff I can think of off the top of my head. It’s not gimmicky, either! It doesn’t feel like pandering. It's woven in as part of what makes the world so vibrant and different from ours. It isn't a point of angst or contention. It's just as normal as the bioluminescent fish that are described so beautifully that I got sad when I remembered they aren’t real. I hesitate to remark on any plot details in an effort to not spoil the experience, but I compiled a short list of things I can tell you: 1. You are going to fall in love with Ylfing. It’s as inevitable as the tide rising and falling. 2. There is no one more relatable than motherfucking Consanza. A true icon of a woman. 3. The author has confirmed on social media that dragons exist in this universe. This is neither important, relevant, nor useful to the reading of A Conspiracy of Truths, but it is a massive selling point (in my humble opinion.) A Conspiracy of Truths is a story about the importance of stories. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It’s the first book I’ve ever loved so intensely that I felt compelled to grab a soapbox and yell into the internet customer review void about just how much I love it. It’s roundhouse kicked books I’ve treasured for decades out of the rankings to sit proudly on top as the chosen favourite. It reminded me why I love fantasy in the first place. I’m worried that I’m going to reach the text limit of Amazon reviews, so I’ll wrap it up with this: To Mx. Alex Rowland: Thank you.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rekka

    I. ADORE. THIS. BOOK. The characters are so well described and realized that I can't hate the villains. I can't even be sure who the villains are. Rowland crafts an incredible vast world filled with colliding cultures and ideologies, most of which the main character only recounts or experiences from one confined location after another. It's jaw-dropping how this book pulls me along without effort despite a POV character that is confined for so much of the book. Sometimes Chant feels like a sage, o I. ADORE. THIS. BOOK. The characters are so well described and realized that I can't hate the villains. I can't even be sure who the villains are. Rowland crafts an incredible vast world filled with colliding cultures and ideologies, most of which the main character only recounts or experiences from one confined location after another. It's jaw-dropping how this book pulls me along without effort despite a POV character that is confined for so much of the book. Sometimes Chant feels like a sage, other times he squeaks by as a barely competent manipulator. The fun of this book is where and when he makes an impact, and how that changes the world around him. It's the perfect low key heist of opinions and beliefs, and a delicious, cynical balm on my dumpster fire-jangled nerves. CANNOT WAIT FOR THE NEXT BOOK. **PTERODACTYL SCREECHING.** Flail Awards given for: - monk's-puffs, coffee, and maps - intrigue and political scheming from a total stranger to a culture - MAPS and MAP SHENANIGANS - Commentary during story-telling - AMAZING DUST JACKET OH MY GOD BUY THE HARDCOVER IT MUST BE FELT TO BE BELIEVED.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elias Eells

    A Conspiracy of Truths is truly a wonderful book. If you care about stories, the ways they're told, and the reasons why, you must read this book. The inset stories put this book in a tradition as old as storytelling and set it apart from whatever else is on the shelf. I will be buying copies to give as gifts both this holiday season and later on!!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth A

    Hello! Do you like second world fantasy that's heavy on the interrelations between story-telling, politics, and myth-making? Do you like snarky narrators who spend a solid 20% of their story complaining about how incompetent everyone is, including, sometimes, themselves? Do you like having not one, not two, but instead easily 5 or 6 complex, imperfect women in positions of power in your narrative? Do you like cinnamon roll apprentices whose hearts are as big as the whole world? If you answered y Hello! Do you like second world fantasy that's heavy on the interrelations between story-telling, politics, and myth-making? Do you like snarky narrators who spend a solid 20% of their story complaining about how incompetent everyone is, including, sometimes, themselves? Do you like having not one, not two, but instead easily 5 or 6 complex, imperfect women in positions of power in your narrative? Do you like cinnamon roll apprentices whose hearts are as big as the whole world? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you will love this book at least as much as I did. Four stars because I read/listened to the bulk of this book while off my face on cold medicine, and I can't tell if the parts I was confused during are the book, or just me. But I'm looking forward to the reread it will take to find out.

  21. 5 out of 5

    A. J.

    The voice in this book was such a delight. I usually don’t say this but it is such a WRITERLY book. If you love biased or unreliable narrators, definitely read this book. I usually prefer a little more direct action in my plots but the voice sold the storyteller aspect beautifully.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katie Lawrence

    Just brilliantly done. I'll post my finished review when I am able, but goodness if you enjoy folklore, political intrigue, watching the power of stories in action, sarcastic narrators, definitely give this a go. Review for the Library Journal: It begins in a courtroom. A foul-mouthed, elderly man sits in a cage struggling to hear witnesses’ testimonies. He is a stranger in a rule-bound land. He stands accused of witchcraft, espionage and disturbing the court. He finds this ridiculous. He is namel Just brilliantly done. I'll post my finished review when I am able, but goodness if you enjoy folklore, political intrigue, watching the power of stories in action, sarcastic narrators, definitely give this a go. Review for the Library Journal: It begins in a courtroom. A foul-mouthed, elderly man sits in a cage struggling to hear witnesses’ testimonies. He is a stranger in a rule-bound land. He stands accused of witchcraft, espionage and disturbing the court. He finds this ridiculous. He is nameless, except for his title, Chant. He is about to spark a revolution. Debut novelist Rowland has crafted an elegant exploration of the complexities of humanity and the power of stories. Chant is a wandering storyteller by trade. Imprisoned in medieval Nuryevet, he finds himself passed amongst several ruling, conniving queens who want either his power or his death. Desperate for freedom, Chant uses storytelling and his deep understanding of people to manipulate everyone he meets, showcasing the way tales can sway people through fear, inspiration and even false prophecy. To see Chant’s stories and conversations with everyone from thieves, to queens to his apprentice, ultimately weave together is masterful. Every act has a purpose, every story a hidden truth to tell. VERDICT: An intricately wrought tale, with vividly portrayed characters and original folktales, that reveals how a strong story well told can have the power to change everything. Highly recommended for those that enjoy folklore and political intrigue.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sana

    Damn, this sounds awesome! A storyteller as the main character, love it and that coverrrr 😍

  24. 5 out of 5

    Camille

    This is a book for people who love stories. Well obviously, right? It’s a fiction book. A cantankerous old man is falsely accused of witchcraft and must prove his innocence using his wiles. A tragically honorable general, a sweet young apprentice, a corrupt Queen, and an ass-kissing attorney make appearances along the way. But these are only the things that happen, and the people that make them happen. What the book is ABOUT is the power of stories. It’s about The Way People Are and why, and how. This is a book for people who love stories. Well obviously, right? It’s a fiction book. A cantankerous old man is falsely accused of witchcraft and must prove his innocence using his wiles. A tragically honorable general, a sweet young apprentice, a corrupt Queen, and an ass-kissing attorney make appearances along the way. But these are only the things that happen, and the people that make them happen. What the book is ABOUT is the power of stories. It’s about The Way People Are and why, and how. It is a beautiful, lovingly-rendered treatise on how and why the right words at the right time can bring a country to its knees because stories are what make humans, human. (Some MINOR spoilers ahead.) (view spoiler)[This is a book about the joy and importance of storytelling. It communicates this both through the plot and characters, and through the actual structure of the book. It’s written in the first person, without chapters—because it’s a transcription of a story being TOLD. This, like many other things within the book, isn’t immediately obvious, and unfurls like a leaf as you progress through the tale. There are stories within stories throughout the book and (nearly) each one helps illuminate the carefully crafted fictional world. Some, by my reading, were not there for any immediately apparent reason, but hinted at things that could be in future books (hopefully a sequel or two). Even if they weren’t relevant to the plot at hand, all of the stories-within-the-story were interesting and each one was distinct in its own voice, clearly originating from a unique fictional culture. The characters are fantastic. Chant is the most charmingly flawed, blatantly unreliable narrator. For all his bluster about understanding people and the ways of the world, he is as flustered by intense or unexpected displays of emotions as anyone else might be. And for all his chattering about not caring, he is deeply attached to his apprentice, Ylfing. He is endearingly human. (I am also EXTREMELY partial to cranky old characters who are thoroughly done with everything. I relate.) Ylfing, the aforementioned apprentice, is equally a delight because he is everything Chant is not: naïve, cheerful, unwearied by the world. (He is a soft cinnamon roll too good and too pure for this mess his master found himself in. Chant knows this.) I am also EXTREMELY partial to characters like this. Obviously, the two them together in the same book means I had a great time. Trust me when I say the other, less major characters are also delightful. I’m afraid if I go on any more I’ll spoil it, and this is a book I would recommend reading with minimal spoilers. And I DEFINITELY recommend reading it. (hide spoiler)]

  25. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    One of my absolute favorite things is stories about storytelling, so this was absolutely up my alley, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Stories are changed by the teller, stories are changed by the listener, truth isn't always what really happened--those are ideas I am wildly into. So I loved the Scheherazade aspect to things, and I loved way that threaded its way through the book. Other things that were fantastic include: the attention to detail in creating Nuryeven bureaucracy, the way the worldbuil One of my absolute favorite things is stories about storytelling, so this was absolutely up my alley, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Stories are changed by the teller, stories are changed by the listener, truth isn't always what really happened--those are ideas I am wildly into. So I loved the Scheherazade aspect to things, and I loved way that threaded its way through the book. Other things that were fantastic include: the attention to detail in creating Nuryeven bureaucracy, the way the worldbuilding spilled out over the edges of our one setting to create a very broad and diverse and believable world in the distance, the way the plot started very small and unfolded to something massive (but still tightly focused), the crotchety chaotic neutral main character, every female character, EVERY character period, the morally gray literally everyone, have I mentioned I liked the characters? The one thing I will say is that I was a little frustrated that the only prejudice that seems to appear in Nuryevet--no homophobia, normalized polyamory, there's a very minor character who's asexual and dyslexic who seems fine, there's a character missing an arm and leg who's annoyed by her prosthetic sometimes but also one of the most powerful people in the country, absolute gender equality--so the only prejudice that actually appears in this city is racism. Oh, there's some fairly extreme economic disparity between the rich and the poor, but even then, classism, in terms of actual things people say that are bad, does not really appear. People might ignore the fact that people are starving in favor of lining their pockets and going on with their lives, but once again, in terms of bigoted comments--no. And this might be because most of the people we interact with do seem to be, at this point in their lives, middle-class or better! But it means that the only form of bigotry we interact with in Nuryevet is racism (it is made clear that in other countries, other prejudices exist). And it's not even relevant to the plot. And this feels to me--possibly unfairly--like saying, "let's have a fantasy world where we don't have to think about homophobia! and misogyny! and etc! except not racism, you gotta have racism, how could you have a place without racism?" And that feels a bit not great. Which is not to say that you shouldn't read the book! Definitely read the book! The book was great, the only reason I did not read it in a day is because it was very late and I was tired, so I highly recommend the book! And I will definitely be reading whatever Alexandra Rowland comes out with next, because this was a very, very impressive debut.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Reid

    I very rarely write about the number of stars I give books, feeling that it's a bit vulgar to do so; I don't really know why I feel that way, but for some reason I do. Then when I encounter a book like this one—perfectly serviceable, well-written, pleasant—I feel a bit self-conscious about giving it a rating that many would consider a recommendation against reading it. Allow me to explain (briefly, I promise). I think we may well be in an era of star inflation on Goodreads. Actually, I have rated I very rarely write about the number of stars I give books, feeling that it's a bit vulgar to do so; I don't really know why I feel that way, but for some reason I do. Then when I encounter a book like this one—perfectly serviceable, well-written, pleasant—I feel a bit self-conscious about giving it a rating that many would consider a recommendation against reading it. Allow me to explain (briefly, I promise). I think we may well be in an era of star inflation on Goodreads. Actually, I have rated several books two stars that I would not warn anyone away from—decent books that are readable if not particularly engaging or well-written. Three star books I actually rather liked, but they don't rise to the level of truly good books. Four star books are amazing books I loved. Five star books are works of genius. Very few authors, and even fewer contemporary ones, rise to the level of genius, in my estimation: Jesmyn Ward comes to mind, Jonathan Safran Foer, Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, David Foster Wallace. The point I am making here is that if we rate everything at four or five stars, we have no room to praise those books that surprise and shock us, make us sit up and take notice, change the way we think, bowl us over with their style, wit, charm, and facility with language. So, to this book. A Conspiracy of Truths is a sweet tale of a man who makes his living as an itinerant storyteller in a world that is not this one, but resembles a preindustrial Europe. He is accompanied by his apprentice as he goes on his travels. We find this Chant (for so he is deemed) in jail when we join the story, and the majority of the book is him trying to clever his way out. He tells tales, manipulates people and circumstances, plots, plans, and conspires, all the while telling story after story. It is in some ways a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights and is quite delightful as a framing device for telling clever, sweet tales. The plot itself is perfectly serviceable, if a bit shopworn. The prose is fine without being obtrusive. I know I am damning this poor book with faint praise, because I really did enjoy it. Nonetheless, it is hard to recommend too highly because there is simply nothing very special about it. Still, if you are looking for a light, inoffensive read, you could do worse than to pick this up.

  27. 4 out of 5

    David

    Short version: read this bloody book I beg you! Full review: I'm not a masterful storyteller like the protagonist of this book, so I apologise for starting this review with a tangent, but I promise I do have a point, so bear with me please. I love Brandon Sanderson. He is my favourite writer, my hero, and I devour everything he writes. He recently released Skyward, prior to which he published preview chapters that became the constant focus of my thoughts. They were just so good and I needed MORE. Short version: read this bloody book I beg you! Full review: I'm not a masterful storyteller like the protagonist of this book, so I apologise for starting this review with a tangent, but I promise I do have a point, so bear with me please. I love Brandon Sanderson. He is my favourite writer, my hero, and I devour everything he writes. He recently released Skyward, prior to which he published preview chapters that became the constant focus of my thoughts. They were just so good and I needed MORE. I checked like every second day when my book would be shipped. Now David, you ask me, why the heck is this relevant to this review? Because Skyward was (finally) delivered 100 pages into A Conspiracy of Truths and I put Skyward on my shelf and didn't start reading it until I finished Conspiracy. This book is so good that I put aside Brandon Sanderson for it. Now, for anyone who doesn't know me, my reading habits include reading about ten books at the same time and switching basically whenever I'm mildly bored or don't like a part. I didn't switch with this book. (I also ignored the book I was supposed to read for uni bc frankly it was the opposite of this book.) This book was simply captivating. Not so much in a thriller suspense way, no, rather in the way it was told (though there is ofc a good deal of suspense and good plot). In the way it invited you to read and imagine and feel. It felt like the book I want to both read and write (and I had to summon all my willpower not to blatantly steal elements for my wips bc HELL WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THIS). This book does a fantastic job of working with tropes, always twisting and adjusting and still honouring them. At the same time, it has a lot of unique elements that surprised me, that felt new, refreshing. It also made some bold, unusual choices that worked! (and some that didn't for me, but that's to be expected with every book really) The book and characters alike had a lovely distinct voice and it was a pleasure to 'listen' to it. I read it on the train to and from uni and in bed, on a bus journey and cuddled up with my girlfriend. It was the right fit in each of these situations. I also bloody adore Ylfing. So yes, please read this book. It will be well worth your while and you'll end up richer in many ways.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    A Conspiracy of Truths is kinda what you'd get, if you had a tabletop RPG character who put all his skill points into persuasion/deception/manipulation, etc. That is, a protagonist who tends to get himself into a lot of trouble, and then gets himself into more trouble trying to talk himself out of the original trouble he'd been facing. It's an interesting approach, and one that works pretty well most of the time. This is helped by a strong, distinctive voice from Chant, the protagonist, as well a A Conspiracy of Truths is kinda what you'd get, if you had a tabletop RPG character who put all his skill points into persuasion/deception/manipulation, etc. That is, a protagonist who tends to get himself into a lot of trouble, and then gets himself into more trouble trying to talk himself out of the original trouble he'd been facing. It's an interesting approach, and one that works pretty well most of the time. This is helped by a strong, distinctive voice from Chant, the protagonist, as well as the wry and witty quality of the writing as a whole. Chant is the type of person who can't keep his mouth shut, for better or worse. But even when you're smacking your forehead over his attempts to play one person against another, it's always an engaging experience to watch unfold. The supporting cast is equally well-written, from the advocate who might care more than her lackadaisical attitude lets on, to the hopeless romantic of an assistant, to the corrupt politicians running the country where this all takes place--they all feel distinctive, and like real people, which adds a lot of life to the world. The world itself also feels fully realized, even though we only see a small portion of it directly. Nuryevet is a bleak, oppressive place, filled with citizens who think it's great, largely because they've never been anywhere else. One could easily make an argument that it's supposed to be a commentary/caricature of modern-day America, but that's neither here nor there. That argument is there to pursue and mull over, if you decide to, but the story itself is engaging enough on its own, that you can bypass those allusions if you so choose, without lessening the experience. We only get third-hand accounts of the surrounding areas and other countries, but even these seem to suggest places with their own identities and sets of laws that make them unique. All in all, A Conspiracy of Truths is a different take on the fantasy genre: a story that is both small and personal, while encapsulating some rather large and dramatic events. There isn't much outright action, yet the pacing never suffers for it. If you're looking for something a bit different, I can certainly recommend it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

    The whole mess began in a courtroom in Vsila, the capital of Nuryevet, where I was being put on trial for something stupid. --- Oh my goodness, what a marvelous book. Sometimes, you know a book is going to be fantastic from the first page. From the first line, even. A Conspiracy of Truths is one of those books. It's simply delightful, from start to finish. Chant is a professional story teller and story gatherer, wanderer, and cultural historian. That's worked out well for him, right up until he's a The whole mess began in a courtroom in Vsila, the capital of Nuryevet, where I was being put on trial for something stupid. --- Oh my goodness, what a marvelous book. Sometimes, you know a book is going to be fantastic from the first page. From the first line, even. A Conspiracy of Truths is one of those books. It's simply delightful, from start to finish. Chant is a professional story teller and story gatherer, wanderer, and cultural historian. That's worked out well for him, right up until he's arrested for witchcraft. Chant will do anything to be free, and if that involves taking down the local government through an aggressive mix of stories, false rumors, and blatant lies, well. His cell is awfully cold. A Conspiracy of Truths is just so damn clever. Chant reminds me of a seventy-year-old version of Eugenides from The Queen's Thief series. It's so unusual to read a book with such an elderly main character, but Chant is never anything less than fascinating even though he mostly sits in a prison cell and talks. Speaking of Queen's Thief, it's hard not to draw comparisons. From the similarly clever and whiny protagonists to the frequent storytelling breaks, A Conspiracy of Truths really does run close to Megan Whalen Turner's series. But honestly, that's ok, because I love Queen's Thief enough to be delighted by its close cousin. Reading an unreservedly excellent book makes me somewhat giddy, so this isn't the most coherent review. I love the stories, how they flesh out the world and give it depth. I love the characters, from crotchety Chant to permanently lovestruck Ylfing to overqualified and highly bored Constanza. I love the politics and the fascinating Queens. I love the evil cleverness of the map - Rowland takes one of the biggest cliches in fantasy literature and uses it in a massive rug-pull that you will not see coming. I honestly can't find anything to nitpick about this book. And I tried mighty hard, I promise. Rowland has created a marvelous world populated by fascinating characters, and I sincerely hope there's a sequel in the works. Everyone should read this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jes Malitoris

    Rowland's debut novel is a fantastic tale about the power of stories - for good or ill - in a complex and sprawling fantasy world. A quick but rich read ideal for adults who like the deep politics of Game of Thrones but want something with more humor and heart and less of Martin's dark and gritty approach. This is, frankly, one of the most superb examples of first-person narration that I have ever read. Rowland's writing is fluid, shifting the reader smoothly between current events and myths, leg Rowland's debut novel is a fantastic tale about the power of stories - for good or ill - in a complex and sprawling fantasy world. A quick but rich read ideal for adults who like the deep politics of Game of Thrones but want something with more humor and heart and less of Martin's dark and gritty approach. This is, frankly, one of the most superb examples of first-person narration that I have ever read. Rowland's writing is fluid, shifting the reader smoothly between current events and myths, legends, and "historical" accounts in their universe. At the same time, the narrative is rooted solidly in the main character's colorful and wry storytelling style that never feels forced. Chant is a classic unreliable narrator, and we learn it, not from some dramatic reveal, but just as you learn about a new friend: his little white lies happen over time and build upon the reader's ever-growing sense of him as a character. The *entire plot* takes place within one prison or another, but it never feels confined - the tales that Chant tells range across an entire continent. At the same time, the secondary characters make the story feel grounded in the immediate. We learn enough about other, everyday people and their struggles, relationships, and triumphs to keep the story grounded. Rowland's writing - full of character, forceful, and yet also fine-tuned and delicate - is a joy to read. I heartily recommend this (beautiful! Have you seen the cover!?) book to any lovers of fantasy, and perhaps even those who might not normally enjoy the genre. An ideal holiday gift!

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