Published: 28th August 2012 by Orbit Books
Format: Paperback, 373 pages
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The world is crumbling. Fissures crack the shaking ground, babes are born with twisted limbs and the taste of apples is just a memory.
Rostigan and the Priestess Yalenna must face those Wardens who remain bent on steeping the land in ruin and, somehow, close the growing Wound in the Great Spell. Standing in their way is a pitiless army commanded by a madman, a sky full of silkjaws and, worst of all, an old friend, once betrayed, whom they must now convince to join them again.
There is only one thing for it - Rostigan must break an ancient oath and use powers he has dared not touch, powers that could tip the balance in favour of the spreading corruption. Caught in a web of his own deceit, he struggles to live the lies he has spun, for if he cannot, Aorn itself may well be doomed.
The Lord of Lies is the second and final instalment in the Strange Threads duology – a wonderful new Fantasy series centred on a group of Wardens – the strongest threaders (magic wielders) in Aorn. They had banded together centuries ago to defeat the tyrant Lord Regret, but were corrupted by his powers in the process. Aorn has since been off balance, but now it is even more so, with the return on the Wardens after a three hundred year absence, and unless the corruption is fixed, everything could be torn apart. The Lord of Lies is as much a story about the Wardens as a whole as it is about Rostigan as an individual, and I think it’s the perfect conclusion to this adventure.
In what I am beginning to recognise as Bowring’s trademark style, there are no truly evil characters in the book and every one perpetually hovers in a murky grey area, some closer to black than others. This book, like its processor, gives its readers the chance to spend time with all its characters – even the truly sick and depraved ones. There are scenes in the book that made me wince, others that had me crying out in horror, and a particular scene involving a queen that I will never, ever, forget. The book is paced well, the action is engaging and the plot flows smoothly, relentlessly towards its conclusion and then crescendos.
While the world doesn’t expand much from the previous book in terms of geography, The Lord of Lies deals heavily with the past, and readers gain a greater understanding of the events that transpired immediately following Regret’s death. Each character glimpses their lives had they not been corrupted with Regret’s powers, we are offered a chance to see the Wardens as they were before heading off to war, as untarnished human beings. I was surprised that I sympathised with Forger the most, who is changed drastically by Regret’s curse, and was an amazing person in his previous life. Similarly, as more was revealed about Rostigan, I began to understand the depths of the injustices that the Wardens had suffered over the centuries.
Yalenna and Rostigan are forced to used every trick they know to convince their fellow Wardens to give up their powers and return the world to the way it was before Lord Regret. Rostigan has spent three hundred years cultivating an identity for himself that has nothing to do with his powers as a Warden, and yet he is thrust into an impossible position where he must use them and risk further corrupting the world, all to stop the corruption! He has some hard choices to make, and while Yalenna helps him out as much as she can, I got the feeling that Rostigan was very alone. He struggles with some difficult questions, including whether evil deeds are tempered by a noble intent, and the morality of keeping those closest to him in the dark about his true nature.
The mature, unique writing of Sam Bowring is, I fear, overlooked too often for the mediocre and flashy. Australian Fantasy has benefitted from his contributions, and his works attest to his brilliance. The Strange Threads duology is a must read for fans of the genre, and those new to the genre, who often despair at lyrical descriptions and odd turns of phrase, will find this series both refreshing and worthwhile. The best part is – it’s already finished and published, which means you don’t have to wait months, or years, to find out what happens!