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Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Memory Of Souls by Jenn Lyons (reviewed by Caitlin Grieve)


Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read Caitlin’s review of The Ruin Of Kings
Read Caitlin’s review of The Name Of All Things

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFO: Jenn Lyons lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, three cats and a nearly infinite number of opinions on anything from Sumerian mythology to the correct way to make a martini. Formally a video game producer, she now writes full time. A long-time devotee of storytelling, Lyons traces her geek roots back to playing first edition Dungeons & Dragons in grade school and reading her way from A to Z in the school’s library.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: THE LONGER HE LIVES, THE MORE DANGEROUS HE BECOMES

Now that Relos Var’s plans have been revealed and demons are free to rampage across the empire, the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies―and the end of the world―is closer than ever.

To buy time for humanity, Kihrin needs to convince the king of the Manol vané to perform an ancient ritual which will strip the entire race of their immortality, but it’s a ritual which certain vané will do anything to prevent. Including assassinating the messengers.

Worse, Kihrin must come to terms with the horrifying possibility that his connection to the king of demons, Vol Karoth, is growing steadily in strength.

How can he hope to save anyone when he might turn out to be the greatest threat of them all?

FORMAT/INFO: The Memory of Souls was published August 25th, 2020 by Tor Books. It is 608 pages split over 114 chapters and an epilogue. It is written in both first and third person from a variety of viewpoints, including Kihrin, Janel and Tereath. It is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The magical cage that holds the evil god Vol Karoth is weakening. Tricked by Relos Var, Khirin accidentally destroyed one of the eight gems holding the prison together. Only one thing can repair the damage: the Ritual of Night. But the Ritual can only be powered by an immortal race sacrificing their immortality, and the Manol vané aren’t inclined to give up being the last immortal race on the continent. Complicating matters even further, Kihrin and Janel are beginning to remember their past lives – and the memories they recover reveal dark secrets from thousands of years ago.

I have a complicated relationship with the A Chorus of Dragons series. I always enjoy them moment to moment, but when I step back, I’m never quite sure who to recommend these books to. For instance, I’ve appreciated on occasion the liberties its taken with timelines, but this device has been very divisive in the past, particularly in the first book. In The Memory Of Souls, however, I found the beginning of the book very disjointed as it jumped across several viewpoints and points in the timeline, which I was trying to keep track of while also matching up my fuzzy memory of previous events to what was happening now. It eventually becomes much more linear of a story, but it wasn’t a great first impression. However, that could almost be forgiven by the fact that, after three books, I FINALLY understand what the heck is going on in the grand scheme of things.

A Chorus of Dragons has an incredibly complicated mythology and world-building, made more complicated by magic that allows reincarnation and soul-swapping between bodies. I’ve long since given up trying to track who is related to who, in part because at the end of the day, it feels like everyone is related to everyone. In a very Greek mythology feel, whenever you have a group of characters together, every character is either related to, has slept with, or murdered (and none of these necessarily exclusively) every other character in the room. After a great deal of repetition of facts across three books, I’m getting a handle on the dynamics, in part because connections that were obscured are coming to light.

That is, after all, the crux of the book. While the past two titles have referred to particular magical artifacts, The Memory Of Souls refers to the fact that Kihrin, Janel, and Thurvishar are finally remembering their past lives, and in doing so, are remembering events that set this whole business into motion to begin with. Every book in the series has taken a slightly larger view of the world, and now we’re delving into the origins of the gods themselves, as well as the great evil Vol Karoth. Pieces that I didn’t know where to put are finally clicking into place, now that I have a fuller view of the board, and I almost want to go back and reread the first book now that I understand the connections.

As mentioned before, I really enjoy the moment to moment beats of The Memory Of Souls. That includes a truly spectacular end set-piece, and watching court politics revolving around some very complicated laws of inheritance, given that people dying and coming back to life isn’t unheard of. But in this book in particular, I felt like plot was given precedence over character. With more viewpoints than in either of the two books, I felt like I should have gotten to know people better, but I was a little cold on newer characters, particularly Talea. While I appreciated some of the romances, others just left me baffled, despite the author taking some time to establish them.

CONCLUSION: The Memory Of Souls is an instance where a book isn’t bad, it’s just not as great as it could have been. There are so many balls in the air, so many plots upon plots, and just SO many characters, I didn’t really latch onto one person in particular. I have a soft spot for Thurvishar, though he isn’t a POV character, and Janel, who I adored in the last book, only gets a handful of POV moments. Kihrin is instead one of the main POVs, and while he’s fine, I miss Janel. If you enjoyed the first two books, you’ll find a lot to appreciate here, particularly among some of the more twisty history moments. Despite the ups and downs, I keep being drawn back to these books. I’m on this train until the end, despite it being an occasionally bumpy ride.

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