Jalan is a fool, intent on a life of luxury and excess, of women and gambling, with no responsibilities. Only life, as ever, has a different path for him to take and quite rudely and violently sets this coward upon it. The grandson of the Red Queen of the series title, Jalan finds himself on an unwanted and uncomfortable journey with a man he detests, Snorri, and who detests him in equal measure, to the other end of the world. Here it takes on a strong Viking tone as we follow their journey through snow and ice to find Snorri’s family.
Mark Lawrence works his magic, but her the touch is lighter, rather less grim, and with more humour. This far future world, beyond dystopia, gains more layers and depths. The characters are excellently drawn so, like, hate or love them, you know them. I feel this series will be even better than his first, and I’m looking forward to the next book.
It took me an age to read this book only because I had to finish my own for a deadline, otherwise it would have been finished in a trice.
Like Prince of Fools, in The Liar’s Key we continue the story in Prince Jalan Kendeth’s first person point of view. Now you’d think this would make the narrator reliable, unfortuately Jalan is anything but reliable. Again, much like book 1, Jalan’s character development is less like a curve and more like a yoyo. Just when you think he’s learnt to be a better person, he let’s the reader and himself down. He’s so flawed it makes the story a great deal more real and interesting. Snorri is the more typical square-jawed hero of epic fantasy, but this is not his story. It’s all about Jalan. Using an interesting flash-back technique (through Kara’s blood-magic) we learn a great deal about not only Jalan’s past but the Red Queen’s also.
The story begins where it left off, snow-bound in Trond, he has to escape the enraged family of a ‘sullied’ girl, and so begins a sea journey back south with Snorri and Tuttugo. Snorri is focused on reaching his dead wife and children and believes ‘Loki’s Key’ will be the means to do so. They pick up a volva, Kara, on the way. The dead and Edris pursue them for the Key. Kelem, the doorkeeper, also wants the Key. The Blue Lady and the Silent Sister also play their parts in the story.
How Jalan survives is a mystery, but somehow he does through clever ruses and sheer dumb luck. There’s a nice little twist at the end, which leaves the book at one heck of a cliff-hanger. Thanks Mark, got to get The Wheel of Osheim pronto to find out what happens next.