Sometimes the things that protect us are the same things that limit our freedoms.
I received a finished copy of The Memory of Souls for review, and I’m a complete sucker for epic fantasy (especially with a dragon on the cover, I’m only SO strong), and so I’m marathon reading the entire series (at 600 pages each, too. Nobody tell my TBR). I had no idea what I was getting into, and honestly? It was a wild ride and nothing like I expected.
Rating: 4 stars!
Trigger Warnings: gore, slavery (sex slavery, child slavery), torture, murder, mentions of pedophilia, homophobia, misogyny, slut-shaming, explicit talk of rape, sexual assault, suicide (as ritual, due to topics of reincarnation), incest, prostitution, physical and verbal abuse.
Kihrin is a bastard orphan who grew up on storybook tales of long-lost princes and grand quests. When he is claimed against his will as the long-lost son of a treasonous prince, Kihrin finds that being a long-lost prince isn’t what the storybooks promised.
Far from living the dream, Kihrin finds himself practically a prisoner, at the mercy of his new family’s power plays and ambitions. He also discovers that the storybooks have lied about a lot of other things too: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, true love, and how the hero always wins.
Then again, maybe he’s not the hero, for Kihrin is not destined to save the empire. He’s destined to destroy it.
What did I think?
I’m going to come out and say it. I loved the narrative style. I think the split timeline will definitely be a love it or hate it thing but I really enjoyed it. There was something strangely satisfying about seeing before and after an event, and slowly putting the pieces together on what was happening based on past-and-future clues. I also really respect how cleverly this was written, and what an amazing job Jenn Lyons did on managing not to spoil anything in the past timeline, even when events were mentioned in the future timeline. The use of implications and our own assumptions to keep the reader guessing? Brilliant. And I didn’t ever feel like information was being withheld from me for the sake of it. I really enjoyed both timelines. I liked the way that they seemed to parallel in places, and how they contrasted. One timeline was written in third person and the other in first person, because both were stories being told by two characters taking turns. I think using the varied perspectives was a really good idea because not only did it make sense in context, it gave each timeline a completely different feel. I could pick up the book mid-chapter and easily distinguish whose story I was reading. I didn’t have a single moment in the book where I wasn’t sure about that, and that’s some clever writing because I am so often confused by POV shifts in books.
I did find some bits confusing. The stone of shackles stuff in particular really stretched my ability to think straight, and I had to remember which character was which. There were also some characters who appeared right at the start, then disappeared for ages. That’s fine and realistic especially in a book spanning several years but when they reappeared just mentioned by name? It’d been 400 pages, I’d forgotten who they were. That being said, I still enjoyed this fiercely and at points was kind of gleeful about being confused, just enjoying how damn smart the book was. Considering its size, I read this really fast, and was desperate not to put it down. For a moment I even considered buying the ebook, just so I could also read it at work.
The main characters were the real delight in this series, though, and I treasured so many of them. Kihrin was the kind of main character that I got attached to in a heartbeat, despite his many and varied flaws, and while I sometimes wanted to hit him for being an idiot, he was a lot of fun to read about and I was always rooting for him. Galen in particular was a character I never expected to adore, but absolutely did, and alongside Teraeth and Tysento they were some of my favourite characters. There are a lot of similar character names in this book, and sometimes it takes a second to orient who the hell is who, but if you like epic fantasy this is well worth those moments of confusion.
The ending to this was really strong, and I’ve loved so many of the ensemble characters that I hope upon hope that The Name of All Things is full of them too – though this is a five part series I believe, so I might have to be patient. Either way, I can’t wait to jump into the next one.