REVIEW: ‘League of Liars’ by Astrid Scholte was underwhelming for all it promised

 

‘League of Liars’ tries to deliver a scathing social commentary of our own justice system.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Ever since Cayder spent a year at Vardean, justice has been very black and white to him, but he doesn’t expect to stumble upon shades of grey in Astrid Scholte’s League of Liars.

From the Blurb:

Ever since his mother was killed, seventeen-year-old Cayder Broduck has had one goal — to see illegal users of magic brought to justice. People who carelessly use extradimensional magic for their own self-interest, without a care to the damage it does to society or those around them, deserve to be punished as far as Cayder is concerned. Because magic always has a price. So when Cayder lands a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to apprentice under a premier public defender, he takes it. If he can learn all the tricks of public defense, the better he’ll be able to dismantle defense arguments when he’s a prosecutor. Then he’ll finally be able to make sure justice is served.

But when he meets the three criminals he’s supposed to defend, it no longer seems so black and white. They’re teenagers, like him, and their stories are . . . complicated, like his. Vardean, the prison where Cayder’s new clients are incarcerated, also happens to be at the very heart of the horrible tear in the veil between their world and another dimension — where all magic comes from.

Cayder’s internship at the public defender’s office starts out as a way to spy on the other side and learn their methods, until his sister gets arrested on his first day assisting in the prison.

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Cayder was an extremely stubborn character whose arc was unlearning the prejudices he’s grown up with. After Varden juvenile turned his life around, he’s held the idea that anyone sentenced to Varden deserves it, but working with Jey, his sister Leta and the third inmate challenge these ideas, and his beliefs in an infallible justice system. Cayder’s journey of self discovery was, by far, the most impactful in the book with him coming out a more complex and interesting character on the other side.

While Jey, Leta and the third inmate have less memorable arcs, each imparts Cayder with a central lesson. Jey’s story isn’t what it seems, Leta’s ideas shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, and the third inmate represents the failing justice system as a whole. Seeing how their stories intersected added a depth to the book that went beyond Cayder’s arc.

By far the most impressive aspect of League of Liars was its worldbuilding. Scholte gives us a world where a rip allowed shadow magic into the world. Because of how volatile it is, it’s forbidden to use and the society has built in safeguards to never truly be in the dark in order to avoid casting any sort of shadow that might attract the magic kind. There’s even a research team dedicated to studying the rip and the shadows, which gave the book somewhat of a sci-fi feel that I appreciated.

Astrid Scholte’s writing is expansive as she paints just about every detail of a scene. Throughout the book, she makes an effort to describe the big and the small, which gives the sense that there exists a world beyond the plot of the book. However this also weighed League of Liars down. My biggest complaint, meandering it was. There’s so much set up that the action is condensed in the later half of the book, with it feeling rushed at times.

While it’s obvious that parts of League of Liars were meant to be a social commentary on our own justice system, they don’t land so well. Through the first half of the book, Cayder explains the justice and court systems in minute detail, with a constant insistant on how perfect they are. As such it was hardly a surprise when he discovered the justice system did fail his loved ones. Because of this insistence, Scholte’s writing lacks the subtlety to deliver this message.

League of Liars by Astrid Scholte left me underwhelmed. Her book promised fantastical concepts that were bogged down by court room drama and Cayder discovering how to listen to others. Though I couldn’t find anything about it, the end of the book did make me think it’s a set up to a be series. I might give the next one a go as the last part of the League of Liars was the best.

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Underwhelming for all it promised

2.5
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As an English and Archaeology major, Brigitte spends her days analysing everything from medieval texts to prehistoric pottery shards, which has only fueled her passion for piecing together any plot she comes across.

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