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Having wintered in Trond, Jalan, Snorri and Tuttugu have to make an unplanned retreat from the town, partially because the ice is melting meaning they are no longer safe from their enemies, but mostly because Jalan cannot keeps his hands off other people’s women. Having obtained Loki’s key, the trio set of south; Snorri because he wishes to use the key to open the door to the world of the dead and rescues his wife and child, and Jalan because he is bound to Snorri. However, the possession of such a powerful artefact means that the trio are a magnet for assassins and warriors, all the time suspecting that, in fact, they are little more than pawns in the Red Queen's plans...
The Liar’s Key (2015. 653 Pages) is the second fantasy book in The Red Queen's War trilogy and follows on from Prince of Fools. The book was penned by Mark Lawrence.
I really enjoyed the first book in the series, with its mixture of wry wit and high adventure, and if anything The Liar’s Key is an improvement on Prince of Fools. It’s been a while since the previous novel was published, so as well as a map, which shows a very changed Europe, Lawrence has kindly added a couple of pages to remind readers what has happened so far.
The book has some similarities to The Lord of the Rings if you substitute Loki’s key for the One Ring. Both objects drive the story forward, but ultimately the story is not about the object itself, but rather the relationships which grow up around it. Driving south through poor weather and general hostility, the trio eventually add another two travellers to their band, Kara, a young witch and Hennan, a young orphan.
Central to the book's success is the character of Jalan, a man of contradictions. He can be cowardly, sly, an untrustworthy womaniser and yet he can behave opposite to this self created persona. At the beginning of the first book, he was bound to Snorri, as they were both bound to supernatural creatures, Snorri to a creature of light, Jalan to one of black. Through the story Jalan moves more towards the light and, in gaining some insight to his own past, starts to grow and change as a character. Snorri, conversely is tormented by thoughts of his dead wife and child and this vein of melancholy is what drives him towards Kelem, possibly to his death but still with the hope that he can use Loki’s key.
Lawrence has a way with characters and all of the major players in the book are afforded elements of light and shade, likewise the book also provides us with a goodly number of strong well rounded females. Most of the book is told through the eyes of Jalan, who also provides much of the humour in the book. Jalan may be a scoundrel, but, at least he is self aware about his faults and his constant complaints about his situation add much levity to the proceedings. There is something deeply appealing about both the world and characters that Lawrence has created.
So, another good addition to The Queens War Trilogy, just a shame we have to wait so long for the tale's conclusion.