Hello Humans! Having just finished Seth Dickinson’s The Monster, apparently some part of me thought it would be a great idea to jump straight into another big fantasy book. I read Jenn Lyons’ The Ruin of Kings earlier in the year and had a great time, and I was amazed to get a copy of the sequel to review! Much like with The Monster, this review is coming fairly late, blame the reading slump, but trust me – it was worth waiting for this one.
Possible spoilers ahead for The Ruin of Kings but spoiler-free for The Name of all Things.
You can have everything you want if you sacrifice everything you believe.
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.
Those of you who have read The Ruin of Kings will know that these books are told in a slightly different way, essentially it’s a number of layers of reported storytelling. In The Name of All Things we have someone telling the story, as was told to another group of people by two other characters – I’m explaining it poorly but it’s basically two layers of story, with the addition of footnotes from our narrator. These aren’t quite as long as those you might find in Nevernight but they are (in my opinion) equally salty. The dramatic irony, as you can imagine, is perfection.
I personally really liked how this book was structured, I think big epic fantasy like this went through a phase of just feeling like A Song of Ice and Fire clones, and we’re starting to see people playing with different modes of getting stories with multiple moving parts across to the reader. The slight disadvantage is that you do, as a result of this structure, get a fairly disjointed narrative, where you skip around from narrator to narrator and also (if you’re the kind of person like me who needs to read every footnote) skipping around the page. I think that’s part of what makes this book special but it also makes it a challenge to read if you are also someone who struggles to keep their attention in one place for a long period of time. Basically, don’t expect to whiz through this in a few hours, even if you are a fast reader.
I loved the story(ies) told in this book, I enjoyed following Janel, I thought she was an incredibly interesting character. There was one moment where the book started talking about being a mare but also being a stallion and at first I thought it was really poor transgender representation, but I think it’s actually talking more about how gender roles are nonsense and we should throw them away and let people be leaders if they are leaders regardless of gender – and also about seeing the value of people who perform the other tasks in life, the more nurturing roles for example. I don’t know, it all got tied into sexual preference in a way that made me feel it must be about gender. I think it likely depends on how you read it, which will be different for most, I’m aware that I read things with more of a ‘is this talking about trans individuals’ than many other readers will. Essentially, I didn’t necessarily disagree with the points this book was making about gender and expectations – it just felt like a fairly unclear way of showing that point?
But aside from all of that baggage, Janel seemed great. I love any narrative that sets up a character and then puts them through the ringer – without feeling unnecessarily bleak. This book certainly isn’t all happiness and joy, but it never feels like a relentless slog. There are some great character building moments throughout this story, which I think were made all the more powerful because it is often Janel telling her own story, so you see the development there and then.
Despite being such an epic story, the actual narrative is primarily just contained around Janel and Brother Qown, which suited me just fine, I do enjoy a big sprawling narrative with hundreds of interconnected pieces, but something about having a story of this scale with the narrative pared down to just two interconnected perspectives made it feel very intimate, it made you care much more about the characters than if this had been a bigger multiple POV kind of story.
I wouldn’t say this is the most compelling epic fantasy I’ve read, it was fairly hard to get through at time, and I think there was a bit of superfluous narrative – but that is of course another matter of personal preference. I think as a fantasy book reviewer who just wants to read all the things I get a bit more frustrated at books that feel too long because my time is so limited – but I think if I wasn’t such a book-devourer/book-dragon I’d be obsessed with big long books with huge amounts of detail!
Overall, I think this series is well-worth reading, if only to enjoy the different way of telling stories – it also has plenty of girls with swords – so you know I’m going to love it!
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, all opinions are my own.
The Name of All Things is available now!
What say you? Will you be adding this to your TBR? Have you already read it? Let me know in the comments below!