Book Review: The Lyre Thief by Jennifer Fallon
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 1 of The Hythrun Chronicles: War of the Gods
Publisher: Tor (March 8, 2016)
Length: 448 pages
2016 fantasy releases have been blasting away all my expectations so far, and as a result, we’re not even officially into spring and already I have a long list of contenders for favorite book of the year. The Lyre Thief is most definitely going to be one of those contenders, as I’d known within the first fifty pages. This is a book that captured my attention from the start.
It was also the first time I’ve read Jennifer Fallon, and interestingly, I actually hadn’t known that The Lyre Thief was a follow-up series until I read the blurbs for Medalon and the other books in her Hythrun Chronicles: Demon Child and Hythrun Chronicles: Wolfblade sequences. Fallon eases us into the world so gently and seamlessly though, I felt no disadvantage from not having read the previous series—and you know how picky I can be about such things! For one, a decade has passed since the events at the end of the Demon Child books, so we’re looking at essentially a brand new story. Second, the author does a superb job of catching new readers up, making sure to cover all the important information about the history and the characters. I was extremely impressed and pleased at how naturally she worked in what we needed to know without resorting to any info-dumps or awkward flashbacking. It really feels like a fresh start.
At the center of this book is a pair of siblings: Rakaia, Princess of Fardohnya, and her baseborn half-sister Charisee, a slave in the king’s harem. But as it turns out, Rakaia is not of royal birth herself. Terrified that the king will find out, her mother Princess Sophany quickly arranges for her daughter to marry a Hythrun Warlord as a way to get Rakaia far away from Fardohnya and out of harm’s way. Sophany hatches up a plan for Charisee to take the place of Rakaia, since the two girls have known each other closely since they are six years old and look so much alike that they can practically pass for each other. Charisee, however, knows nothing of the plot right up until Rakaia makes her escape, forcing her hapless half-sister to keep up with the pretense of being a real princess.
Meanwhile, in far off Medalon, a token of the God of Music has been stolen, setting off a chain of events that can destroy all the magic that the gods have helped mortals create. Who knew that a tiny golden lyre could cause so much trouble? Its theft has far-reaching consequences that touch many lives, from Rakaia and Charisee to the High Prince Damin Wolfblade and his stepbrother Kiam Miar, guild assassin. At the heart of it all is R’shiel, the Demon Child herself, resurfacing again now after ten years of searching for Death, and she will not stop until she gets what she wants.
The Lyre Thief is such a rich tapestry of love, courage, and adventure, woven from so many story threads that each carry their own meanings and strengths. It is everything I want in a sweeping narrative: a cast of interesting characters, a setting filled with exotic and detailed locales, and a rich world filled with the things that make it feel alive—like history, culture, and religion. The best part is that none of this feels overwhelming, even though much of the world-building had already been established by the previous series. Past events have played no small role in the plot of this story, and there are also a lot of characters, some new and some returning. Still, it never got to be too much, even as the author explained the complex relationship ties (the Wolfblades, for instance, are a huge extended family) or recounted important historical events that led to the current political climate between the various kingdoms.
This is also a fast-moving tale, with an unceasing momentum helped by a strong sense of timing and well-chosen POVs. My favorites are of course Charisee and Rakaia, each experiencing a new life for the very first time and finding love in the most unexpected place. Each chapter brought new surprises, making The Lyre Thief hard to put down. Twists and turns are plentiful, and the book also had this tendency to lull me into a false sense of security before dropping major plot bombshells. Every so often I would be enjoying the story as it progressed down a pleasant path when all of a sudden something horrific or shocking would come out of nowhere and blindside me. I learned very quickly not to underestimate Jennifer Fallon’s storytelling skills! She has a real talent for engaging readers, and I was certainly captivated by every scene.
For the absolute best results, it would probably help to read the first two series in the Hythrun Chronicles first, but I want to also stress that it is completely unnecessary if you just feel like diving straight into The Lyre Thief. However, I can’t guarantee that you won’t want to pick them up after you read this anyway, because the novel is just that good. I loved it so much, I’ve already added the previous trilogies to the TBR because I want to learn everything I can about this irresistible world and the characters. Highly recommended, and I can’t wait for the next book.