The Liar’s Key, the second book of Mark Lawrence's Red Queen’s War trilogy, is here at last, a year after the author left readers with one of the best closing lines ever to see print. Dubious hero and narrator Jalan Kendeth is far from home, threatened with a new adventure that will push him to the limit, reveal missing episodes from his past and test his friendship with the Norseman Snorri ver Snagason.
Jalan and Snorri are one of fantasy’s great double acts, although this time round they don't spend as much time in each other's company. That's not a bad thing, given the various gods and demons dripping poison into Jalan's mind, making him doubt the loyalty of his friend and dwell on the apparent futility of their quest. Snorri, you see, has Loki’s key and seeks the entrance to Hel, from where he intends to bring back his wife and children.
In a 650 page doorstopper of a story, Lawrence takes readers on a tour of Jalan's world – from the Norselands to Northern Italy – showing different cultures at work and play, their varying applications of commerce and uses of technology. He's an author who's unafraid to play with expectations, a writer who creates a rewarding read by populating it with realistic characters whose actions have appropriate repercussions. There isn't a dull moment, no scene that feels tacked on to increase the word count. Everything is relevant, combining to form a work of literature that is dark, disturbing, amusing and poignant – often on the same page. It's a story that works extremely well from beginning to end, never making its reader feel cheated or manipulated, and being further proof that Lawrence deserves all of his accolades.
The Liar’s Key is a book that, once started, is near impossible to put down, immersing the reader in a world seen through a unique pair of eyes, a tale narrated with its own distinctive style. It's a fascinating read for all fans of fantasy; one filled with high adventure, brutal plot twists, characters to care about and moments of deep profundity.
It's felt like a long year, but it's been well worth the wait; Lawrence improves with every book he writes and if he keeps on like this, we may have to turn the ratings system up to eleven. Magnificent, and highly recommended.
INFO: THE LIAR’S KEY / WRITER: MARK LAWRENCE / PUBLISHER: HARPER VOYAGER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW