April 24, 2016

The Liar's Key by Mark Lawrence

“Throw away too much of your past and you abandon the person who walked those days. When you pare away at yourself you can reinvent, that’s true enough, but such whittling always seems to reveal a lesser man, and promises to leave you with nothing at the end.” -Mark Lawrence, The Liar's Key

Blurb: 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.

Format: The Liar's Key is the second novel in The Red Queen's War trilogy, being the sequel to Prince of Fools. I am reviewing the hardcover edition of the novel which is 479 pages in length. The novel was originally published in June of 2015. The novel is told in the first person POV from the eyes of Jalan Kendeth.

Setting: The story takes place in the Broken Empire and goes from the far north in the cold of winter to the southern warmth of Jalan's birth. Author Mark Lawrence does a good job of conveying setting by how the main character voices his opinion about it (and voice his opinion he does on regular occasion with setting). The setting is more than just a backdrop in this tale and there are some rather wonderful and also very creepy scenes in the story.

Characters: Jalan and Snorri are the primary characters and the tale is once again told through the eyes of Jalan. They two are complimented by two other characters that they pick up along the way though I will not spoil who they are or their roles, for that is part of the fun of the novel. There was a lot of development for Jalan in this novel. He is dark sworn and still taunted every sunset by Aslaug the demon and Snorri is light sworn and still bothered by Barquel the angel. Through lengthy dream visions in several points of the story we find out that Jalan is very much broken from his past. This is explored and so is a sort of dark side of the otherwise heroic Snorri as he is hell bent (pun intended) to go to death's door. I felt like their characters were each explored in much more depth than in Prince of Fools.

Plot: Snorri now possesses Loki's key, the key that is said to be able to unlock any door. He intends to use the key to unlock the the door to Hell and rescue his murdered family from torment. As they progress towards that end the bond that had bound Jalan to Snorri's dangerous quest begins to weaken. Jalan wants nothing to do with the warrior's seemingly suicidal ambition and as they move southward towards Jal's home, he very much intends to leave the company and avoid the dying that's sure to ensue. All the while, Jalan is cursed by dreams that can last several days, dreams of his grandmother's ascension to the throne. The dreams seem to be of strange and unrelated events, but soon they lead to dark truths about the line of Kendeths...truths that may impact Jalan's ambitions.

My Thoughts: I thought The Liar's Key moved at a better pace than Prince of Fools. A lot of time was given to delving deeper into Jalan's character and the true reasons behind his cowardice and brokenness. I've come to love the prince despite his obvious flaws that would normally turn me off of his type of character. The adventure was fun with a healthy dose of complicated situations for Jal and Snorri as well as dark portions which successfully made me cringe. It was well written and the story carried me well from start to finish through all the twists and turns along the way.

There were some definite nods in the timeline of the novel to the Broken Empire trilogy that is taking place at the same time and I really enjoyed seeing what was going on elsewhere at the same time as Jorg's adventures. Some of the locations or devices from the Builders (who are supposedly us) were sometimes a little difficult to understand but I liked how they are presented to us through the eyes of the limited understanding peoples of the times. Overall, I would say this novel is Mark Lawrence's strongest yet and that is really saying something considering that The Broken Empire trilogy tops my list for favorite fantasy reads. If you've not given The Red Queen's war trilogy a try or stopped after reading Prince of Fools in favor of another read I would definitely say its worth the read so pick it up!

About the Author: Mark Lawrence is married with four children, one of whom is severely disabled. His day job is as a research scientist focused on various rather intractable problems in the field of artificial intelligence. He has held secret level clearance with both US and UK governments. At one point he was qualified to say 'this isn't rocket science ... oh wait, it actually is'.

Between work and caring for his disabled child, Mark spends his time writing, playing computer games, tending an allotment, brewing beer, and avoiding DIY.

Author's Website: Mark Lawrence's Website
Buy the Book: The Liar's Key on Amazon


  1. Excellent review! I'm looking forward to reading more by you!

    1. Many thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed my thoughts. :)