Treachery of Doubt by E. M. Hartshorn

Treachery of Doubt E. M. HartshornNote: Spoilers for book 1.

When Bodyguard of Lies (Book 1 in this series) ended, I was unhappy with a decision Sabra made regarding her brother. Book 2, Treachery of Doubt, is all about that decision coming back to bite her in some ways, but not exactly the way I’d expected.

The story offers nods to the broad cast introduced in the first book, but to my mind, the main characters are Gareth and Cinn. Sabra is back in her element, both the arena and making decisions for those around her, usually without their permission. She means well, but she has a bit of a superiority complex to my mind, and this, on top of the decision to wipe Gareth’s memory, is costing her friendships and close relationships while she’s being targeted and has no idea why.

Gareth’s story is caught up in a memory wipe made without his consent and without his knowledge. I understand why he does what he did, though I wish he would talk to Sabra (in part because I’m curious how she would react to the consequences of the memory wipe, both the headaches and its failure). It’s easy to see how not knowing would drive him to make bad choices and get in deep with people his instincts warn against. And part of the cause is because he doesn’t have the memories to give him warning, so another consequence. I’m not happy with where he takes that debt, but it’s character-appropriate when misguided loyalty and illogical decisions have driven him all along. He wants control. Who wouldn’t? And Sabra doesn’t trust him enough to give that to him.

Cinn’s story is also about control, but in this case, it’s thinking she has it when it soon becomes obvious she doesn’t. Her reputation earned her the undercover gig at the arena, but she’s come to love the fight…and Charly…more than her real job. It doesn’t help that the overturn in book 1 cut her contacts or that she’d like to keep Charly out of this, for Charly’s safety. There’s something huge going on, and Cinn can only see glimpses, but that’s enough for her to become aware just how precarious her position really is.

Charly is not a main character in this book, unlike the previous one, but though her thread is small, it’s very satisfying and complex in its own right. I think I have a soft spot for Charly, and was happy to see her getting some things in order even if that sets her against her own blood and puts her in some very awkward situations.

Ultimately, Treachery of Doubt resolves some minor circumstances and introduces many more major ones. It ends in a serious cliffhanger, but part of the reason is because all the point-of-view characters are foot soldiers on the outside of the main event. Even Cinn is unaware of what is truly going on while Gareth is a minion by choice, preferring not to learn something that will put him in a position of going against his promises even though they were made blindly.

I read for interesting characters and stories, with a preference for complex narratives. Treachery of Doubt lives up to this in spades with a host of well-written characters who inspire both frustration and joy while playing a part, knowingly or in ignorance, in a much more twisted game being enacted by those well above their pay grade. I’m not a big fan of cliffhangers, but in this case, the story is more about the people than the big event, so I didn’t need to know more about it just yet. I had enough keeping me busy with hoping Gareth would make a different call and Sabra would unbend enough to let someone in. Well worth the read.

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