Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Liar's Key Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Mark Lawrence
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Epic Fantasy,
Series: Red Queen's War Book Two
Pages: 496

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(Spoilers for Prince of Fools are below).

The Liar’s Key is Mark Lawrence’s best effort to date. Where most fantasy authors seem to struggle with writing second installments, Lawrence does everything you’re supposed to do right. Characters grow and become more complex, the stakes are raised, and the workings of the world brings new understanding to the challenges its characters will be facing. This book will not only be important to understanding the decisions the characters make within this trilogy, but it will likely explain a lot of the decisions future characters make in future stories that Lawrence decides to tell in this world.

Shortly after obtaining Loki’s Key, a key that can unlock any door, Snorri and Jalan, plus Snorri’s old friend Tuttugu are off once again. This time Snorri is looking to unlock the door to death in the hopes that he can bring his family back into the world of the living.  The key is highly sought after, and the Dead King along with various other powerful beings including the Red Queen’s arch-nemesis the Blue Lady won’t stop hunting it’s carriers.

Snorri and Jalan are traveling companions again, and that is again the focus of the majority of the plot.  New characters join them on this journey, and together they form a group that’s sort of like the Fellowship of the Ring, except everyone in this Fellowship has their own selfish or desperate agendas. The two new prominent characters include an orphan boy named Hennan whom Jalan teaches his messed up value system to, and how to cheat at cards; and a witch named Kara … whom of course of Jalan wants to seduce.

Jalan Kendeth – asshole that he is – continues to remain a (mostly) likeable character.  His logical reasoning via internal monologues are hilarious in a “that’s so wrong,” sort of way.  Stealing from friends, hitting women, insulting poor people, taking the virtue of fathers’ daughters, vandalizing property, and abandoning friends in times of dire need … that’s our protagonist, need I say more.

What really amazes me, of Lawrence’s two major characters in the Broken Empire – Jorg and Jalan – Jalan is easily the most moral of the two.  Despite his long list of shortcomings, Jalan becomes a lot more multidimensional.  He learns about the importance of friendship, loyalty, and responsibility.  The best part though is Lawrence sets limits to how much Jalan can learn, so he never starts to become altruistic in any sort of way.

The past is explored a lot more thoroughly in this book as Jalan is gifted some visions from the past that feature his grandmother, the Red Queen.  You can expect to learn about how she obtained that moniker, what her relationship with Jalan’s mother was like, and how her rivalry with the Blue Lady began – all great anecdotes. As a peripheral character the Red Queen is easily one of the most fascinating in Lawrence’s world.  Her limited page time has you craving more, but it understandably adds to the tension and her enigmatic aura.

It’s been mentioned before, but it’s really hard to deny now – especially with a plot where the main character is searching for their family in death – how much this reminds me of Garth Nix’s Abhorsen Trilogy. I loved that trilogy, and with the way Lawrence writes, I expect there will be some very emotionally gratifying series’ of moments about death in the future. After the cliffhanger that ends this book, I don’t see how anyone won’t be eagerly awaiting the final installment.

Score: 9.3

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