The series, A Chorus of Dragons by Jenn Lyons, since its first book The Ruin of Kings, released in 2019, has quickly become the series I look forward to the most. The fourth book, The House of Always, is no exception. It continues to balance the world-building, plot, and character development of the characters and setting we know while also bringing back characters and giving them the love and spotlight the reader may not have known they deserve.
The penultimate book doesn’t begin directly where The Memory of Souls left off but in chaos. Twenty-four days after the third book’s climactic events, the readers find themselves with characters we haven’t seen since the first and second books alongside Janel, Teraeth, Thurvishar, Xivan, and Talea. Suddenly, we find them with Qown from The Name of All Things alongside Kalindra, Galen D’Mon, and his wife Sheloran from The Ruin of Kings, and they’re not exactly having tea. We are dropped in media res to some kind of dramatic battle, and just as we begin asking, “okay, but how did we get here and what happened to that big decision Kihrin made at the end of the last book?” everything changes. Senera plucks them out of events to address that big question placing them in close quarters to address the dead Kihrin in the room.
If you’ve read my previous reviews, you know I will gush about Lyon’s excellent framing devices. In The House of Always, the author could have rested on her laurels and repeated what is already a great format but instead evolved it to play an important role in the novel. The characters are placed into close quarters connected to Val Korath, the Demon King’s prison, and trapped in a debate between Kihrin and himself about whether life is worth preserving. The two then use the memories of Kihrin’s friends for their argument that leads up to the chaotic scene in the beginning. Through this we get so many payoffs from the last three books while also falling in love with these lesser-known characters.
Galen D’mon and Qown are the MVPs of this book. Though Galen’s time with Kihrin was brief in the first book, we never learned how those four years Kihrin went missing in The Ruin of Kings really changed him. In this book, we finally see how Galen has blossomed into a man alongside his wife, Sherloran D’Talus. Sheloran, a character seen but whom you may have been forgotten from the first book, flourishes in this one. I came in knowing nothing about her but I was wholly in love with her character by the end, which every book wishes it could accomplish with its characters.
Through Kihrin in the first book, we see how imperialism and colonization can lead to ignorance of true historical events and ignorance of other cultures in the world around him as his small world becomes a larger one. With Qown in this book, we get another side of what the Empire of Quur’s class division, toxic masculinity, and homophobia can cause internal conflict and self-loathing. Qown goes through his own awakening as he becomes an even more sympathetic character even after his betrayal of Janel and company.
Fantasy, and storytelling in general, doesn’t have to answer every question it poses. You don’t need to know who Beren and Luthien are in The Lord of the Rings to feel Aragorn’s emotion when he sings the Lay that is dedicated to them. However, when a series poses questions and then answers them well it feels satisfying, especially a series with as many layers as this one. Book three felt like such a converging of plots that it’s easy to forget other events that happened off-screen. Nothing is left off the table through returning points-of-view Qown and Talea and new points-of-view Galen and Kalindra. The House of Always is a novel of secrets revealed from characters in the background while the events of book three were happening. There have been fantasy books in the past that take the spotlight from the characters readers love to give the spotlight to more minor characters to varying degrees of success. I never felt reading this book that our Hellwarriors, Kihrin, Janel, Teraeth, and Thurvishar were cast aside but share the spotlight with the others to make the world and conflict feel much larger and of more dire consequences.
The four Hellwarriors aren’t islands that stand alone. Their actions have affected people’s lives in this world for better or for worse. The Memory of Souls was the final nail on the coffin for trusting the systems in place from the Empire of Quur, the Vane, or the Eight Immortals. Kihrin and those close to him learn in this book that what they need is to rely on each other when systems fail them. It may be saccharine, but this book comes off as being about hope and the power of a united front. What eases that corniness is the characters aren’t little perfectly moral darlings. They’re complicated and have made complicated if maybe sometimes unethical and sometimes idiotic choices that affect not only them but the larger world around them. They deal with the real and internal consequences, and their problems don’t just go away because they do something heroic.
All of this is on top of such an exciting setting—cool and unique monsters, magic, and timelines. Ultimately, the penultimate book of The Chorus of Dragons does what the series has been doing since The Ruin of Kings. There is so much media these days, so many ways to tell a story, that what I am looking for is to be rewarded for my time. Life is short, and fantasy books can be quite long. Each of the books in this series has been worth it. Questions get answered, worlds get built, the characters get development, and romance blossoms in every book under the umbrella of an anti-imperialist message and the coming of age of several of our protagonists. The House of Always is no different. I am brimming with excitement and anxiety about what is coming in the final book of this series. I don’t want these characters and the world to end, but keeping the story neat and tight may be part of why it has been such a fantastic read. The House of Always has left me feeling hopeful about how the series will end for our Hellwarriors. May Taja always walk with Jenn Lyons for blessing us with these books.
Joshua was provided an advance copy of the book by Tor Books.
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