Book Review: The Liar's Key

The Liar's Key by Mark Lawrence, The Red Queen's War #2

The eyes of the mighty are on the North. Loki’s key has been found and lies in the hands of a feckless prince and a broken warrior.

Winter has locked Prince Jalan Kendeth far from the luxury of his southern palace. The North may be home to Viking Snorri ver Snagason but he is just as eager to leave. However, even men who hold a key that can open any door must wait for the thaw.
As the ice unlocks its jaws the Dead King moves to claim what was so nearly his. But there are other players in this game, other hands reaching for Loki’s key.
Jalan wants only to return to the wine and women of the south, but Snorri has a different and terrifying goal. The warrior aims to find the very door into death and throw it wide. Snorri ver Snagason will challenge all of Hell if that’s what it takes to bring his wife and children back into the living world. He has found the key – now all he needs is to find the door.
But pawns are played to sacrifice and the Red Queen set both these men upon her board. How many moves ahead has the Silent Sister seen? How far will they get before their part in the game is over?

So this author should not need an introduction. If you think he does. well. I don't know under which rock you have been hiding over the last years. Ok, I have to be honest I was late to the initial party with the Broken Empire series. From that first book that Mark Lawrence wrote, he won me over. Last year he kicked off his latest series The Red Queen War with Prince of Fools. This series focuses on a new cast but is set in the same universe. Also, The Liar's Key is the first book where there is no royal "prefix" Prince, King or Emperor in the title. 

The Liar's Key picks up where Prince of Fools left us, with Jalan Kendeth and Snorri ver Snagason in the town of Trond located in the cold and freezing Northern region. During their adventures in the last book Jalan and Snorri came in to the possession of a very valuable key. Better known as Loki's Key. A key that can open any door that the bearer might wants. Snorri desperatly wants to bring back the family that he has lost, only problem is that they are currently not in the living world anymore. To get them back he has to open the door that leads to Death... Jalan though not fond of the idea of looking for said door, does accompanies Snorri and Tuttugu on the job. He is readily convinced that it might be easier to go along with them then staying in Trond with several women that he has upset... Added to this comes the fact that Snorri and Jalan are linked. Loki's key holds a tremendous amount of power, Jalan and Snorri aren't the only ones who know this fact. Other mighty players soon start to try to get their hands on the key. Thereby making the journey a lot more complicated and challenging. Jalan and his companions are just mere pawns in a much bigger came played by deadly forces. The Red Queen, Jalan's grandmother, has made enemies along the way, the Blue Lady who has sent out her own minions after Loki's Key. Luckily for Jalan (he isn't that much of a fighter) they pick up some companions along the way and Snorri is more than capable with an axe to fend foe's off. Of course the minions of Lady Blue do pose a dire threat to Jalan and his party,. But there is one more thing that might be more dangerous than all of Lady Blue's agents combined. The key itself. Just look at the name of the person who has been said to have created the key. Loki. The trickster god himself. There has to be a catch somewhere, somehow! 

First off, the above summary doesn't come near to do justice to the story told in The Liar's Key. To date it is the longest book Mark Lawrence has written. Besides the direct story that you follow with Jalan and his company there are many other parts that Mark Lawrence highlights. Namely the background of Jalan. Jalan's background is explored through many different way, but mainly in dreams, well nightmares. I really liked this bit, as Jalan is quite the protagonist. I have to mention that The Liar's Key did feel more as a middle book that King of Thorns did, i am not saying that it is a bad thing at all. It really helped to get an even better grip on the story and the universe. 

As I already said The Liar's Key again focuses on Jalan and Snorri. Jalan being the main protagonist and the attention seeking personality he has, makes up for the most part of the story. When you compare him to the first book, he hasn't really changed that much to be honest. He has grown up a bit but when his true nature once again comes to show he really can whine about things that he doesn't like, also he keeps true to his snide and witty remarks along the way. The humor that Jalan possesses isn't always accepted by his fellow companions which in turn leads to so funny scenes. Directly opposite Jalan's personality is that of Snorri, who doesn't fear anything, even death himself, Snorri goes in axe swinging and then asking for questions, a bit short tempered makes him an explosive character. Snorri's character was pushed a bit more into the background but you still got enough of him for a solid development. Though I wasn't expecting this since the synopsis did mention that Snorri was in search for his family. Anyway. There are also new characters that join up with Jalan, if both Jalan and Snorri aren't enough the added companions make everything even more interesting to say the least. 

The Builders (not to be confused with the story of Daniel Polansky) have always intrigued me in the world of the Broken Empire and once again in The Red Queen's War. I have debated enough times about the world that Mark Lawrence envisions and I am coming to the opinion more and more that their has to be some post apocalyptic to it. In The Liar's Key there is once again a nice focus on some of the Builder aspects, what they might have done. More technological advances are being shown. I just can;t stop thinking about the wealth and possibilities of Mark Lawrence's world. Great to see things being explored bit by bit. 

The Liar's Key is, just as with is predecessor Prince of Fools and the Broken Empire series, a tour de force. There are only a few authors who have really risen up in the last few years. Mark Lawrence is definitely one of them. The Liar's Key is an intricate story that shows elements of epic fantasy, science fiction and bit of horror every now and then. Mark Lawrence has set up this story very well in particular resolving some issues, giving a great background about what makes the world go round and of course reveals more about Jalan. Jorg was an amazing character, complex and dark, but Jalan is also something, he doesn't have the complexity yet of Jorg but is very well developed in other areas one of being a smartass to begin with. There were plenty of funny moments, the bankable advice was definitely one of my favorites. Once again Mark Lawrence has outdone himself. 

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