Publisher: Tor/Forge (March 8, 2016)
Length: 446 pages
My Rating: 4.5 stars
Bringing to mind the days when fantasy by the likes of Barbara Hambly, David Eddings, and Stephen R. Donaldson dominated the bookstore shelves, The Lyre Thief is a triumph of that type of classic storytelling; a masterful amalgamation of traditional themes, colorful characters and divine beings which will entertain even the most demanding fantasy aficionado out there.
Told through multiple points of view, this first installment of the Hythrun Chronicles: War of the Gods elegantly and effortlessly weaves together the stories of Rakaia, Princess of Fardohnya, her half-sister and slave Charisee, the master assassin Kiam, High Princess Andrina of Hyrthun, and the infamous Demon Child. Each individual journey mesmerizing in and of itself, but also touching upon and leading toward the others in a wonderfully orchestrated dance which keeps the narrative fresh, entertaining and causes the pages to fly by rapidly.
Beginning it all is the plight of Princess Rakaia. Having lived a privileged (though stifled) existence in her father’s royal harem, an unexpected revelation by her mother throws her whole life into turbulence and threatens to result in her painful death. This news and her mother’s desperate plan to save her causing not only trepidation but guilt as it involves placing her slave half-sister and lifelong companion Charisee in harm’s way.
Charisee herself is annoyingly ignorant of all the political machinations going on with her sister and the other members of the royal family. Indeed, she doesn’t sense any wrongness when Rakaia comes to her with a plan to swap places: Charisee becoming the Princess Rakaia and heading off to marry a Hythrun Warlord while Rakaia becomes the freed slave Charisee. Obviously, she realizes their ruse might lead them into trouble, but the opportunity to finally change her role in life overcomes her initial misgivings, leading her to don the role of Princess of Fardohnya and journey forth with the Master Assassin Kiam to her (Rakaia’s) royal wedding.
Meanwhile, a continent away, Princess Rakaia’s sister Adrina is living a charmed life as High Princess of Hythrun with a husband she loves and children she adores. If not for her shrew of a mother-in-law, it would be paradise. But then everything is thrown into chaos by the actions of two people: King Hablet of Fardohnya when he sends news that Rakaia will be coming to live with Adrina until her marriage to a Hythrun Warlord and the Demon Child Ry’Shiel when she stirs up the god of Death himself.
As for the Demon Child, she is a nearly divine being who has grown less and less enamored of the world she saved in the past. The wonders of the earth having become commonplace to her; its inhabitants tedious at best; and her lonely lot in life complicated by the fact the only person she ever loved and felt companionship for resides in hell due to a deal he made to save her life. And so (tired of hiding in the shadows) Ry’Shiel begins an epic quest to retrieve long dead Brak from the halls of Death no matter the consequences to her former friends — including Adrina’s husband Damin Wolfblade.
And while the stories of these people play out,an even more extraordinary one is taking place: the theft of the lyre of the God of Music. The disappearance of this physical manifestation of the divine covenant between the gods and men jeopardizing the very existence of the world!
There really are many, many wonderful things to say about this book. One could begin by talking about the flowing prose, which is informative and colorful but easily digested as well as wickedly clever at times. Or you could focus on the characterization; these differing people evolving into individuals whose lives and struggles matter to you as a reader. Then there is the depth of the world, the unique races and cultures, the dynamic of gods, man, and magical beings interacting, or perhaps the constant references to the characters’ previous adventures in the past; all of it giving this story a depth which makes it feel so much more real. But, really, reading comes down to entertainment to me, and this book is highly entertaining, addictive even, sucking you into the narrative and never giving you any reason to loose interest or set it aside.
As for any criticisms, the only one I have is the characters’ references to adventures in the past. While this definitely lends a weight of history to the world and these people, explains their attachment to one another, it does feel forced from time to time. There are several instances where two characters who are having a conversation on a current situation suddenly diverging off into a multi paragraph discussion of some past event which only tentatively has anything to do with the current crisis. No, these episodes don’t ruin the narrative, but they are a distraction from time to time.
The Lyre Thief is one of my favorite fantasy finds of the past few years. It not only entertained me, but it opened up a whole new fantasy world to discover and enjoy, specifically Jennifer Fallon’s Hythrun Chronicle novels (Demon Child and Wolfblade.) And if you love classic fantasy or merely need a break from more grimdark faire, I’d highly recommend you pick this novel up and enjoy.
I received this book from the Tor Books in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank both of them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.