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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The House of Always by Jenn Lyons - Review



OFFICIAL AUTHOR WEBSITE
Pre-order The House of Always Here

OFFICIAL AUTHOR WEBSITE: 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: What if you were imprisoned for all eternity?

In the aftermath of the Ritual of Night, everything has changed.

The Eight Immortals have catastrophically failed to stop Kihrin's enemies, who are moving forward with their plans to free Vol Karoth, the King of Demons. Kihrin has his own ideas about how to fight back, but even if he's willing to sacrifice everything for victory, the cost may prove too high for his allies.

Now they face a choice: can they save the world while saving Kihrin, too? Or will they be forced to watch as he becomes the very evil they have all sworn to destroy.

FORMAT/INFO: The House of Always released on May 11th, 2021 from Tor Books. It is 544 pages split over 60 chapters and an epilogue. It is told from both first and third person from multiple POVs, including Kihirin, Talea, Galen, Qown, Janel, and more. It is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: 
Vol Karoth, the King of Demons, is breaking free. The Eight Immortals have failed in their attempt to reseal his prison, and now Kihirin alone is all that holds Vol Karoth in his magical prison. With time running out, the wizard Senera takes Kihirin’s allies to the one place where they have all the time in the world: the Lighthouse of Shadrag Gor. Here, where months can pass while only minutes go by in the outside world, a handful of people must find a way to seal the Demon King away once and for all. But as Vol Karoth grows in power, he gains the ability to steal a person’s darkest secrets and share them with everyone. And just because those fighting against Vol Karoth are allies, doesn’t mean they don’t have things to hide from each other.

It will never cease to amaze me how I find the A Chorus of Dragons series so utterly confusing and yet so utterly compelling at the same time. Author Jenn Lyons always keeps me on my toes, continuously finding new frameworks to tell her story. For those new to the series,A Chorus of Dragons is a complex epic fantasy, where the story is often told out of order, and characters have convoluted relationships with each other due to the fact that souls can reincarnate. Trying to keep track of who was married to who in a past life or which people are related to each other and how is an exercise in futility. Those of you with a finished copy of the book will have a leg up from a handy family tree and timeline of past events; those of us with eARCs had to go without that material and floundered about trying to remember details from the last few books. 

Thankfully, I have long given up trying to track all this information. A Chorus of Dragons is a wild ride that keeps me hooked moment to moment, even if I don’t always understand how the pieces fit into the big picture. In this particular outing, several characters from the previous books (some who have previously met and some who haven’t) have been rounded up and are essentially trapped inside one house until they can find a solution to the problem of Vol Karoth. That means when secrets start coming out through the visions Vol Karoth is sending to everyone, the characters have no choice but to immediately deal with the fallout of the secret being shared. It’s a pressure cooker of character drama and was the part I enjoyed most. 

Many secondary characters get a chance to shine in The House of Always, adding some fresh perspectives to the storyline. Happy-go-lucky Talea was a character I enjoyed spending time with, as well as Galen D’Mon, Kihirin’s nephew who has somehow managed to remain a fairly decent person while being brought up by the worst father imaginable. I also loved Galen’s wife, Sheloran, a character I don’t remember particularly well from earlier books (if she was in them at all?) but who I adored as a prominent character in this outing. As with earlier books in the story, the narrative does a fair bit of jumping around in the timeline until events catch up with each other, and while I wasn’t always sure WHEN things were happening relative to each other, I enjoyed the individual storylines themselves. 

That enjoyment is partially from enjoying spending time with the characters, and partially from the series of borderline over-the-top moments that launch readers from one beat to the next. The book starts with an honest-to-god battle between a kraken and a dragon and an undead pirate army, and fills out the rest of its pages with carriage chases, assassination attempts, battles on a psychic landscape, and more. Perhaps the fact that this book is so stuffed is what led to one of my few complaints, that a few somewhat key moments towards the end of the book happen “off screen.” The House of Always clocks in at a fairly dense 544 pages already, but towards the end it felt like the author just jumped over a couple plot points with a handwaving “yeah that happened and now we’re here.” 

CONCLUSION: If you’ve made it to book four of A Chorus of Dragons, then you’ve already bought into the author’s brand of fantasy writing. So if you’re here looking for assurances that the book holds up the rest of the series, rest assured that it does. This is probably my second-favorite so far, but only because The Name of All Things was Janel’s story, and she will always be my favorite character. The House of Always is a momentum-filled story, for all that it is largely about a bunch of people trapped in a house, and a worthy entry. There’s just one book left in the A Chorus of Dragons series, and I cannot wait to see how everything turns out.

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