Friday 12 June 2015

The Red Queen's War #2: The Liars Key by Mark Lawrence (Ace/Harper Voyager)

I share my thoughts on the second novel in The Red Queen’s War trilogy by fantasy author Mark Lawrence, entitled The Liar’s Key and published by Ace in the USA and Harper Voyager in the UK. Currently available in the USA it is not released in the UK until 18 June. 

The Red Queen has set her players on the board...

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.

The Red Queen’s War Trilogy is quickly shaping up to be just as strong as the previous Broken Empire novels by Mark Lawrence as The Liar’s Key is a fantastic second entry in the trilogy, which will not disappoint fans of the previous novel as Lawrence continues the adventures of Jalan Kendeth and warrior companion Snorri ver Snagason. Two books in and it’s reminding me very much of the Gotrek & Felix Warhammer Fantasy series, but in a very good way indeed because both are fantastic. We are reintroduced to our characters in the aftermath of their journey to the Black Fort, and Snorri is restless. He wants to get back into the game to search for his wife and children to bring them back to the world of the living, and he now has a means to an end, Loki’s Key. Now all he needs to do is find the door to the afterlife, which is going to be more difficult in practice than on paper.

The quest continues in The Liar’s Key with the addition of two new interesting companions who help shake up the main cast dynamic and keep it fresh. Joining Jalan and Snorri are Kara and Hennan, latecomers who are a witch and an orphan boy respectively. It makes for a nice lineup especially with the fact that the four characters all have their own reasons for being there, and the interactions between the cast is handled well as Lawrence gives them plenty to do.

I mentioned earlier the comparison to Gotrek & Felix, and both share a similar approach that makes both series feel very much like old school fantasy novels with quests as their backdrop (although obviously the motivations for each character are different, Gotrek wants to die a warrior’s death as a Slayer, whilst Snorri wants to find his family in the afterlife), and both are quite fun to read, and I couldn’t put them down while reading them. The Liar’s Key is its own unique beast though, offering an interesting, compelling approach that’s fresh and exciting. Lawrence knows how to keep the reader engaged and this book feels more confident and engrossing than the previous book, and with a fascinating backdrop, we just can’t help but read on.

The characters continue to be so rich and compelling, and easy to get behind and support. Both Jalan and Snorri are flawed and make for well-rounded characters that have some excellent interactions throughout the book and Jalan’s narration is just as good as in the previous novel. The Liar’s Key itself has a grimdark feel despite the old school focus on a quest, but those who aren’t necessarily a fan of the darker approach shouldn’t be put off by the contents within this book. There’s enough there to satisfy everyone, and fans of the previous novel should certainly welcome a second outing.

VERDICT: 9.5/10


  1. I've been waiting patiently for my review copy to arrive in the mail, but I think my patience runs out today. If it's not there when I get home, it's off to the local Coles to buy a copy. :)

    1. Better to have two copies then none at all :).