Read my disclaimer here.
P.S. I meant for this to be a book bite, but it ended up being the length of a normal review.
About the Book
The Red Queen has set her players on the board…
Winter is keeping Prince Jalan Kendeth far from the longed-for luxuries of his southern palace. And although the North may be home to his companion, the warrior Snorri ver Snagason, he is just as eager to leave. For the Viking is ready to challenge all of Hell to bring his wife and children back into the living world. He has Loki’s key – now all he needs is to find the door.
As all wait for the ice to unlock its jaws, the Dead King plots to claim what was so nearly his – the key to the underworld — so that his dead subjects can rise and rule.
This book was sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Mark Lawrence asked me to beta read this book, and I think I just about passed out from the excitement. This was when I was going through some cancer crap, so my mind was frazzled and I doubt I was a very good beta reader, but it was really, really exciting to attempt to take on that role for one of my favorite authors.
The Liar’s Key is one of Lawrence’s best books, if not his best. I was absolutely floored by it when I first read it, and felt that all over again after publication. Lawrence managed to pull all the things that make his writing so damn good together in one work, and it just shines due to it.
One of Lawrence’s skills is writing some absolutely compelling dialogue. And, honestly, there is something compelling about a character that owns who he is. Alll that is cowardly and cheaterly (Is that a word? Well, it is now.) about him are things that most characters would shy from. However, they are traits that Jalan really treasures. While that makes him a unique individual, it also, in unexpected ways, makes him strong. He doesn’t have to hide from who he is, and he is proud of what makes him him. There are very few moments of personal and/or existential concern on his part, which makes his story, overall, more interesting and more streamlined in many ways.
That’s not to say that Jalan is a good person, because he isn’t. He’s self-serving and rather gross at times, and he doesn’t give a damn. He is very, very different from Jorg, but similar in the fact that they are both rather focused on themselves in a lot of ways, and they aren’t afraid to be that way. In some ways, that aspect of Jalan really shines through in this book. There are quite a few times where he needs to be like that in order to get from Point A to Point B . And it works. I’m not sure many author’s besides Mark Lawrence could make characters like this and keep readers interested in their story.
The Liar’s Key starts in the small village of Trond with Jalan’s two Viking companions. Snorri is still set and determined to get his wife and children back into the land of the living, and in this regard he has Loki’s key, which is said to be able to open any door. A key that powerful gains some powerful attention, and as they travel around on their way back to Jalan’s home, they run into quite a few problems. This isn’t an easy book, and it certainly isn’t an easy journey. Jalan is forced to bend and grow in ways that I really didn’t expect. He’s put into uncomfortable situations and he has to navigate his way through them. At times, he’s forced to put his youthful qualities behind and start attempting to grow into someone still self-serving, but a bit more adult. It’s interesting how Lawrence managed to straddle that line of pushing forward the plot and straining his characters, but keeping them true to how he first envisioned them.
The plot never stops. I mean, never. There is always about three things going on, and all of them are important. Things move in rather unexpected ways, and there were quite a few surprises along the way. The connection of Snorri and Jalan is nothing short of fascinating, their relationships is complex, and the way each character evolves, and their relationship changes, is just about as interesting as anything else Lawrence has put in this book. There is quite a bit of emotional and personal depth here that you wouldn’t really expect from a character like Jalan. Snorri also changes quite a bit. He loses some of that hopeful gleam that he had in the previous book, and starts to get quite dark, while jalan moves the other direction. It’s interesting to see these two characters switch roles in some ways, and Lawrence really did it well. It is inevitable that a quest like this would change the people involved, and Lawrence shows a lot of those changes in his characters.
The Liar’s Key is a really complex and shocking work. It is unexpected and powerful. This book showcases everything that Lawrence does so damn well.It is a fast moving book, with complex characters, unexpected evolutions, and a fascinating world. The ending was powerful and hinted at interesting things to come. In truth, this is one of those books that I loved as much to experience how well Lawrence does just about everything, as much as to enjoy the fascinating plot. This Liar’s Key challenges its readers, and its characters, and that challenge (combined with incredible writing) is what makes it so damn good.
I usually struggle with the second book in a series, but I didn’t with this one. Mark Lawrence showed that the second book doesn’t need to be a struggle, or a bridge from one amazing point to another. It can be amazing all on its own. He nailed it.