The Liar's Key (The Red Queen's War)
by Mark Lawrence
Cover Artist: Jason Chan
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Ace Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425268803
Date: 02 June 2015 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Jalan Kendeth and Snorri ver Snagason survived their first showdown with the Dead King at Black Fort. Winter in the North was just the calm before the next storm. Jalan plans to walk away from it all, but Jalan has a special kind of luck, one that runs to trouble. He now has the dark sworn Aslaug visiting him instead of the light sworn Baraqel each day. Aslaug is closer to his disposition and the lack of conflict improves his balance.
Snorri now has Baraqel, a closer match to his personality as well. Snorri wants to do good, but he also has a mission, one that Jalan wants no part of anymore. Snorri does not care if he lives or dies so long as he finds his dead family. Loki's Key may be just what he needs for a chance to see them again. But everyone with power wants to control that key.
Their continuing quest brings in a new companion, Kara. She has her own agenda, which may or may not help them get South safely. Kara keeps many secrets throughout the action only some of which come to light. She is the nice shade of grey to balance out the light and dark of Jalan and Snorri.
Jalan's return causes problems for his family and him. His adventures allow him access to the past and his own history. Readers finally get to see what happened to the boy who showed no fear. It was not one simple action, but the culmination of a series of events. The losses he suffered caused his change and as he learns what drives him, Jalan is left with the choice of which path to follow.
The power struggles between gifted individuals drives the action. Jalan and Snorri were forced together by the Silent Sister of the Red Queen. On the other side is the Lady Blue and the Dead King. There are also other players in the game at this time before Jorg's rise to power.
This is the second novel of an ongoing series. It is not the best starting point for new readers. Readers can start with Prince of Fools, or go through the Broken Empires series first.
Although I understand Snorri's motivations, I am still more drawn to Jalan as a character. Jalan makes choices that are often more aligned with my view of the world. Snorri is too trusting by far and driven to find something that is gone and best left alone. I am not sure I would have been able to make the same final decision that Jalan made. Of course, Jalan is growing.
Although The Broken Empire was very well received, I believe that The Red Queen’s War is superior. The motives driving the characters are more relatable as compared to the psychopathy of Jorg. Lawrence is continuing to develop as a writer as well. His characters grow chapter by chapter. I look forward to the next novel in the series.