“Be thankful,” she continued in a softer tone, “because I’d order your execution for what you’ve done here. I’d hold the sword myself. […] Don’t ask me to interfere, Tamin. You would not like how I’d rule in your case.”
The Name of All Things is the second book in the A Chorus of Dragons series, following The Ruin of Kings, which I reviewed two days ago! We’re continuing on my review series of this epic fantasy series as the third book, The Memory of Souls came out at the beginning of this month, and I’m urging you all to pick up this series! This review will be spoiler-free for The Name of All Things but may contain spoilers for The Ruin of Kings.
Rating: 4 stars!
Trigger Warnings: misogyny, transphobia, murder, slavery, misgendering, mentions of rape, sexual assault, gore, violence, torture.
About the book:
Kihrin D’Mon is a wanted man.
Since he destroyed the Stone of Shackles and set demons free across Quur, he has been on the run from the wrath of an entire empire. His attempt to escape brings him into the path of Janel Theranon, a mysterious Joratese woman who claims to know Kihrin.
Janel’s plea for help pits Kihrin against all manner of dangers: a secret rebellion, a dragon capable of destroying an entire city, and Kihrin’s old enemy, the wizard Relos Var.
Janel believes that Relos Var possesses one of the most powerful artifacts in the world―the Cornerstone called the Name of All Things. And if Janel is right, then there may be nothing in the world that can stop Relos Var from getting what he wants.
And what he wants is Kihrin D’Mon.
What did I think?
If this wasn’t a sequel I probably would have DNF’d it. Which is a bold statement, considering that I rated this 4 stars. It would have been 5 stars if it wasn’t for the first 140 pages. It took me four days to get past those first few pages, which doesn’t sound like a lot until I put it in context – I finished the remaining 450 pages in one day. It’s a really weird feeling, because I absolutely adored this sequel, I liked it as much if not more than its predecessor, The Ruin of Kings, it just took a lot longer to get really good. The Name of All Things is a much slower paced, politically focused book, whereas The Ruin of Kings was pretty much constant action. I don’t hate a political focus, if anything I actually liked that a lot, but it took so long to really get my attention and part of that I think is because The Ruin of Kings ended in such drama and emotion that I thought we were going to plough through into something really interesting. Instead the book started by setting up Joratese culture and worldbuilding and introducing us to a whole new cast of characters – Kihrin isn’t really in this until we get a good way into the book.
The Joratese culture is interesting, if a bit strange. Everything is… horse-centric. They have sentient horses, they describe their colourings in the same terms used to describe horses (gray, palomino, etc) and they have a fascinating split gender-sex model using terms like stallion, mare and gelding to describe someones sex and their gender, though the two don’t correlate at all. For example, our main character Janel is a stallion, her gender is male, but she’s also a mare, her sex is female and she uses female pronouns but male gendered addressess, like Count. I loved this whole addition to the book, and it’s never made to feel like it’s something weird and other, just a facet of their culture. The way that they handle transgender members of the ‘herd’ is brilliant and I absolutely love to see fantasy doing interesting things with gender and sex. Their culture is literally entirely horse based, so they settle things like knights, with horseback tournaments and duels. It’s pretty cool, but I did feel like we spent so long setting up the world instead of moving on to the more interesting plot stuff.
I love Brother Qown, one of the new POV characters, and I grew to love Janel too. I missed some of our favourite characters from the first book, but I did get the strong feeling that this book was setting up the rest of our character cast, ready for the rest of the series to be those characters Doing Good and Killing Evil. I haven’t started The Memory of Souls yet so I might be wrong on that. The first two-thirds of the book focus on the years leading up to Kihrin breaking the Stone of Shackles and shattering gaeshes everywhere, and that was actually a really fun detail. Meeting insanely powerful characters who had been gaeshed, only to know that everything was definitely about to go wrong when the finale of The Ruin of Kings was happening was absolutely wild and I could feel doom on every page. More than our new characters though, I loved the complexities in this book where it came to the ‘bad guys’ we already knew. I don’t know what Jenn Lyons was planning on doing in this book, but she managed to make me love Relos Var. Yeah, sure, he’s evil, but you know what? I kind of love the asshole. The enemy of my enemy is my friend is stretched to its fullest extent in this book, and it added so much depth and excitement to see our characters working alongside our bad guys, sometimes willingly and sometimes not. The line between good and evil is fully shattered in this book and I still don’t know whose side I’m going to be on in the final battle, let alone what’s going to happen when that battle comes around.
The Name of All Things was less confusing than The Ruin of Kings, particularly as the framing device worked a lot better here and it was still a largely linear story, and now I feel like I have a much stronger grasp on the universe, and the boundaries of power and god-hood. Consequences seem like a much bigger deal in this book, and there’s definitely a lot of debate on whether the ends justify the means, especially as both sides are seen doing heinous things in the name of Doing Right. Despite my extreme frustrations with the beginning of this book, I think this is a better book than the first one, if only because right now I’m alive with the scope of this world. There’s three more books to come (The Memory of Souls, then two more) and I can tell that this is going to build to an absolutely epic conclusion.