In the Lion's Mouth
by Michael Flynn
Review by Mel Jacob
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765322852
Date: 17 January 2012 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Flynn is an award-winning writer with many short stories and several novel series to his credit. Readers might be forgiven for thinking they're been dropped into high fantasy In the Lion's Mouth, but no, it's space opera with a revolt in progress among the various clandestine spy groups. Space travel and technology play a major role in the action set in the far future of the world Flynn began with the Firestar series.
Again the scarred man, Donovan with seven personalities, plays a prominent role in this tale related by Rawn, a Shadow (spy/assassin), to the Hound Brigit Ban, sort of a police officer and also Donovan's ex-lover. Rawn, a master Shadow, tells Donovan's tale using poetry, narrative, and relating much of it from his point of view. She kidnaps him and takes him to meet with the rebel Shadows. They have been fighting for twenty years against Those of the Names, the rulers of the Secret City, and want an end to their war with a decisive victory. They consider Donovan key to this effort because they believe he has secret knowledge they need to win their war. However, he is uncertain if he is the man they believe him to be because of his splintered state and memory gaps.
The culture and names of the inhabitants of Clanthompson owe much to Celtic myths and lore. The nature of the Names is not explored, but they appear to have extraordinary powers and technology with mixed motives. The Shadows are varied, but live by their wits, skills, and deception.
Donovan's multiple personalities stand him in good stead since each has different skills. Others find this disconcerting, especially when the personalities discuss things with each other.
Two earlier volumes, The January Dancer and Up Jim River, introduced Donovan, Brigit Ban, and their daughter, Mérana, a harper. It isn't necessary to have read these novels, but would make it easier to understand the relationships portrayed In The Lion's Mouth. The ending provides a lead-in to the next novel in the series. For those who like fantasy elements in space wars, intrigue, resource spies, and thrillers, Flynn provides an interesting pastiche that holds the reader's attention.