Nancy K. Wallace – Grim Tidings

As the son of Llisé’s ruler, Devin Roché knows its laws only too well. It’s a land where keeping historical records is forbidden. To do so would mean imprisonment or death.

Only bards may share the histories of their provinces, but Devin’s quest to learn from them ended in tragedy. His best friend Gaspard has been kidnapped, Master Bards are being murdered and whole communities are disappearing. Clearly someone doesn’t want Devin to know the true history of Llisé.

With his guard Marcus and a wolf pack for protection, Devin sets out to discover the truth. But as terrible secrets come to light, Devin realizes that some knowledge can be deadly.

Nancy K. Wallace’s Grim Tidings is the second book of her series The Wolves of Llisé. The first book Among Wolves was one I enjoyed tremendously and it was a pleasure to return to Llisé to see how the story continued. We’re reunited with Devin, Gaspard and Marcus and this time with Armand and Chastel added to their band. The plot thickens and the villains become more clearly identified, even if their motives — apart from a desire for power — remain vague. 

The theme of information as power remains central as it was in the previous book. In Among Wolves the emphasis was on how history is written by the victors and how the unsanctioned oral histories of the Provinces were a subversive influence on their peoples. Yet Grim Tidings focuses more on how lack of information or, even worse, misinformation is a political tool and that even the written record can be corrupted and thus be unreliable. It is a theme that is quite resonant with current events, given the proliferation of fake news and concerns around how governments might spin their numbers.

So much of this book is about trust; who can Devon trust and who should be distrusted? Gaspard’s loyalty remains in doubt after the events of the previous book, at least I remained dubious of him, far longer than Devon was. Madame Aucoin’s manservant Jules is equally suspicious, not because he would be disloyal to the Aucoin family, far from it—it is exactly this loyalty that makes his intentions toward Devon suspect. And even Devon’s own father comes under suspicion, as Devon discovers facts that cast him in a possible unflattering light. There is an interesting mirroring between Devon’s uncertainty about his father’s character and Gaspard’s complete certainty about his own father’s bad faith. I like that while Gaspard is totally persuaded of the need to take out his father and is truly repulsed by him and his actions, he still is conflicted about it, because he has a hard time setting aside his filial feelings. It makes him so much more human and believable; it was actually the thing that made me trust him again.

My favourite new characters in this book were Angelique and her grandmother, Madame Aucoin. They bring a much needed female perspective to the book, which was lacking after Jeanette’s disappearance. I really liked Madame Aucoin’s quiet presence and influence and her introduction also allows for some interesting revelations about the recent history of Llisé. Angelique is a fascinating character. Her traumatic losses and her isolated upbringing have made her into a sometimes somewhat sinister young woman, who can come across as if she is planning something dastardly, and at the same time seems sweet and naive. She has an unexpected well of strength and determination which I really liked. I look forward to seeing how she develops in the next book.

If there is one thing readers should be aware of when starting Grim Tidings, it is that the book ends on a major cliff hanger. And by major, I mean colossal. I know that people can be really disturbed by major cliff hangers, so fair warning. While I was taken by surprise, it also means that I want the next book ASAP, because I want to know what happens next. So for me the ending absolutely worked. If you haven’t checked out The Wolves of Llisé, I would recommend starting with the previous book, Among Wolves, but make sure to have Grim Tidings on hand so you can immediately plunge on into the next part of the story.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.