Chaos is not easy to control, but it is simple to incite, and it has an advantage: it is difficult for a rabble to organise and overthrow those above them when they live in fear, unsure who to trust, running the risk of penury even for being caught breaking the curfew which has been imposed on Dannsburg, holding the capital in check since the fiery demise of the Princess Crown Royal, now worshipped as the Ascended Martyr.
A former army priest turned gangster later co-opted to be a Queen’s Man, Father Tomas Piety knows that everyone is manipulated, given orders and a superficial justification but aware that what he relays to his men is what they need to believe in the moment rather than the greater underlying truth, doubtless serving a purpose but to what end, serving whom?
The land nominally ruled by a child, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Marcus, all of ten years old, he is a puppet whose short strings are guided by Father Secrets himself, Lord Chief Judiciar Dieter Vogel, Provost Marshal of the Queen’s Men, the man to whom Piety is directly answerable, and the response expected is an immediate and unquestioning affirmative no matter the terrible request.
Originally planned as a trilogy by Peter McLean, his War for the Rose Throne expanded unbidden to a quartet which now reaches its devastating conclusion with Priest of Crowns, with blood on the streets of Dannsurg and Ellinburg and Piety finding himself in the company of unlikely allies, some negotiated and some coerced, unleashing weapons he would once never have thought himself capable of considering using, and it is only the beginning.
Accustomed to the streets of Ellinburg, stoking fires under those who would oppose him to keep them occupied or setting his enemies directly against each other, Piety cannot help but ask dangerous questions to which any answers he gleans might mean he joins the ranks of the dead, already swollen by many former noblemen whose loyalties to the Rose Throne came into question, yet as high as he has risen he now finds himself back to alleys of his home city, wary of every shadow and the dagger behind every smile.
Tactics win skirmishes, strategies win battles, but war requires logistics, and any path Piety chooses will be bloody, becoming as bad as the monster to whom he is beholden and seeks to overthrow, exploiting the unwary who follow him and sending them to their deaths as a distraction, yet he has no other choice; he did not make the situation yet he is a part of it.
A soldier caught in politics, Piety does not want to be king, he just wants change, to avoid another war with Skania which serves only the coffers of the crown, but even the lowest cost at which that change can be bought is high, and the only person who might offer another perspective is his estranged wife, Ailsa, almost absent from his life yet never far from his thoughts. Would her presence perhaps make any of the choices clearer or easier?
Written with the momentum of an avalanche, Piety attempting to steer the tumbling rocks without being caught and crushed in the conflagration of which he is the unwilling architect, every shift of Priest of Crowns comes as a shock yet with hindsight seems tragically inevitable, McLean the true power behind the Rose Throne, a master of his cruel arts and merciless in the execution of his plans.
Priest of Crowns is available now from Jo Fletcher Books