Ten years have passed since the events of the Demon Child books that left the god Xaphista dead, the nation Karien without a religion or king and the matriarchal country of Medalon ruled by men. But it is in the kingdoms of the south that things really heat up. When Princess Rakaia of Fardohnya discovers she is not of royal birth, she agrees to marry a much older Hythrun noble in a chance to escape her ‘father’s wrath. Rakaia takes nothing but her jewels and her base-born half-sister, Charisee, who has been her slave, handmaiden and best friend since she was six years old. And who can pass as Rakaia’s double.
These two sisters embark on a Shakespearean tale of switched identities, complicated love triangles…and meddlesome gods. Rakaia is rescued on the road by none other than the Demon Child, R’shiel, still searching for a way to force Death to release her near immortal Brak. Charisee tries to act like the princess she was never meant to be and manages to draw the attention of the God of Liars who applauds her deception and only wants to help.
Then there is the little matter of the God of Music’s magical totem that has been stolen…and how this theft may undo the universe.
Powerful magics, byzantine politics, sweeping adventure, and a couple of juicy love stories thrown in for good measure, The Lyre Thief is classic Fallon that is sure to appeal to her fans.
The Lyre Thief, Jennifer Fallon’s latest novel, is the first book in the War of the Gods, the third Hythrun Chronicles trilogy in both publication and chronological order. Although I suspect it would have been helpful to have read the Wolfblade and Demon Child trilogies beforehand, enough background was provided that I didn’t feel lost starting here—but I do want to read them now anyway because I found The Lyre Thief thoroughly enjoyable and want to read more of these books!
From the book description, I had a feeling The Lyre Thief was going to be my type of book since I love both tropes involving false identities and meddling gods, and both of these make it delightfully fun to read. When Princess Sophany realizes the secret she’s been hiding for over twenty years—that her daughter Rakaia was not fathered by the King of Fardohyna—may soon be revealed, she ensures that Rakaia is the princess chosen to wed a Hythrun noble in exchange for trade concessions. Sophany plans for Rakaia’s slave Charisee, an illegitimate but true daughter of the king, to pretend to be Rakaia after they leave the harem, allowing her daughter to escape before the truth about her parentage is discovered. Charisee, quite understandably, has some reservations about this idea, but after Rakaia flees in the middle of the night she decides she may as well make the best of pretending to be a princess and asks Jakerlon, the God of Liars, to keep her safe. To her surprise, she later receives a personal visit from her new god, who is quite pleased by her service, and Charisee does her best to follow his advice—after all, her life now depends on everyone believing her to be Rakaia.
Although The Lyre Thief follows several characters, Charisee and Rakaia are the two most prominent, and I enjoyed their stories the most, especially Charisee’s. She tends to blurt out what’s on her mind even when it may not be wise to do so, but she’s also quite clever and learns to use some of this honesty to her advantage when pretending to be Rakaia: as Jakerlon taught her, “the best lies are the stone cold truth.” Her tale is fun but also heartbreaking since she does have to keep up this pretense and sometimes the absolute truth is the one thing that will not be believed when she does try to open up.
Rakaia is a little more difficult to sympathize with in the beginning, especially given that shortly after she’s introduced she’s being condescending toward Charisee and they don’t spend enough time together before being split up to really show the friendship the other characters reference, but her sections ended up being my favorite after Charisee’s. At first, she’s hesitant to even eat tavern food after being used to palace cuisine, but she quickly accepts that she needs to deal with things like this if she wants to survive and discovers she quite likes not being a princess.
Even though I found the book as a whole quite readable, some of the other storylines were not as compelling as Rakaia and Charisee’s. I also very much enjoyed reading about High Princess Adrina and her stepbrother Kiam Miar, an honorable assassin charged with getting “Rakaia” safely to Hythria, but I didn’t find R’shiel quite as compelling in the present (her past sounded interesting). Her goal was finding a character from the previous books so this may have been more engaging had I read them and known more about the person she was so desperate to be reunited with. There are a couple of additional viewpoint characters in addition to those mentioned, and I did find it a little difficult to see how some of those not immediately connected to Rakaia or Charisee fit in at first; I think some familiarity with the previous books may have helped that come together sooner as well. There was also a tendency to tell instead of show a lot in the writing (and sometimes tell what was already obvious), but I was so drawn in by the story and the characters’ conversations that this didn’t bother me too much.
The Lyre Thief is incredibly entertaining and currently one of my favorite 2016 releases. The first thing I did after finishing it was check to see when the next book would be following, and Retribution is a 2017 release I’m very much looking forward to.
My Rating: 8/10
Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.