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May you see the face and not the mask.

Labyrinth’s Heart is the long-awaited and highly-anticipated conclusion to The Rook and Rose series, which already established itself as one of my all-time favourites before even having a finale. Needless to say, I went into this book with extremely high expectations, equally nervous and excited. And somehow, this book managed to be everything I could ever have wished for, while also leaving me a tiny bit unsatisfied, let me explain.

Book 1, The Mask of Mirrors, started out as a relatively contained story about a cunning con artist infiltrating a (supposedly) wealthy noble house to secure a fortune for her and her sister. Yet things started to escalate quickly, and by now the story has developed into an epic quest where said con artist has teamed up with a dashing vigilante and an enigmatic crime lord turned noble to save their city from the dangerous and devastating magic. It’s epic, it’s thrilling, it’s dangerous yet also utterly delightful, but most of all, it’s full of love and heart.

While I love absolutely every aspect of this incredibly unique and refreshing fantasy series, it’s truly the characters who make this story so special to me. And oh, how wonderful it was to be back with all my faves.
They are all incredibly compelling to follow and I adored seeing how much they have grown over the course of the series. I also continue to be blown away by how strong each character’s voice is in this series, which makes everyone just leap off the page with personality. There are a couple of characters with multiple personas and every time they switch, it’s almost unnerving how fully they transform on the page. These authors are just so incredibly gifted at creating complex characters that you can completely fall in love with, even if they might frustrate you at points. In that sense, they almost feel like siblings to me and I feel very, very deeply for all of them.

Speaking of siblings, the found family vibes in this series are absolutely unmatched. The development of all the rocky and complicated relationships is so beautiful to see and I was more than satisfied with how all of their storylines were wrapped up here. Though, now that these characters know all of each other’s secrets, I did somewhat miss that element of tension and intrigue that I adored in the earlier instalments, but then I also can’t deny that the strong bonds of trust and loyalty we got in return were just to die for.

I also really enjoyed exploring more of the Vraszenian culture in this instalment, because we had mostly been immersed in the Nadežran/Liganti high society with all the noble houses so far. Seeing certain characters go back to their roots and reconnect with their cultural heritage was so moving and brought me a lot of joy.
The way that the mystifying Vraszenian pattern magic and their gut wrenching history ended up playing a role in this finale was also a pleasant surprise and very cleverly written if you ask me. The series’ core themes of colonialism, classism, belonging and family are brought home exquisitely in this finale, resulting in a very heartwarming and hopeful conclusion.

Now, with all this gushing, why didn’t I give this the full 5 stars that I wanted to give it deep in my heart, you ask?
Honestly, I think it just comes down to the fact that this finale was too perfect for my tastes, which I fully acknowledge sounds a bit like a weird complaint.
I like my stories to end on a bittersweet note, and while there are definitely heart wrenching moments and small losses, everything was just so extremely neatly wrapped up here that it almost felt a bit unbelievable. Every single storyline gets resolved in a satisfying and happy way, which is admittedly really damn impressive for a series that is SO complex and has such high stakes, yet I just wanted a bit more pain in the end.

All that said, I still consider this one of my all-time favourite series and I think M.A. Carrick accomplished exactly what they set out to do. They wanted to write a series that is the antithesis of grimdark, and they bloody well delivered on that.
I also liked that this final book almost felt a bit episodic in its storytelling, with each part wrapping up one of the unresolved story threads that were still left dangling. The pacing was spot-on, with intense moments with world-ending stakes being followed up with introspective and intimate moments that gave our characters all the resolution and closure they needed and deserved.
Both the internal conflicts of each character and the overarching external conflict concerning the city, the scheming noble houses, and the devastating numinatria magic were extremely compelling, and I think they were ultimately resolved in a masterful way.

I am more than grateful that this refreshing, diverse, queer-normative and utterly delightful story exists, and I will forever come back to this series when I need a good comfort read.
If you are looking for a character-driven high fantasy with a highly atmospheric and immersive Venetian-inspired city setting, an utterly loveable cast of characters with multiple personas, delightful found family vibes, multiple mystifying magic systems, cutthroat political intrigue, and some delicious dashes of slow-burn romance, then you have to pick up The Rook and Rose series!

4.5/5

Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit UK for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Labyrinth’s Heart

Labyrinth’s Heart

Labyrinth’s Heart

Labyrinth’s Heart

Labyrinth’s Heart

Labyrinth’s Heart

Labyrinth’s Heart

Labyrinth’s Heart

Esmay Rosalyne

Esmay is a self-proclaimed professional book devourer from The Netherlands. While (dark) fantasy will always have her heart, she is also a big indie/self-pub enthusiast and will probably read anything if the premise sounds intriguing enough. Or, you know, if it promises complete emotional destruction. When not reading books, she is probably reviewing books, talking about books, or watching videos of fellow bookworms talking about books.

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