Note: Jenn Lyons’s first book Ruin of Kings was such a hit with Geekly readers that we wanted to do even more to showcase her second book, The Name of All Things. And as Josh MacDougall pointed out, there are two narrators for this second volume, so what better than two reviews and two extras–an interview and a post-read discussion–to celebrate this too-awesome two-book extravaganza? Below is the second review. Get excited!
The Ruin of Kings, the first book in Jenn Lyonn’s A Chorus of Dragons series, which released a little over eight months ago, was already on my list of best books of 2019. For the author to publish this outstanding follow-up, The Name of All Things, so closely after the first, has left me in a befuddled state of joy. If The Ruin of Kings had me continually asking, “Oh dang, what’s going to happen next?” than The Name of All Things had me squeezing my book, hollering, “Ahh, what the hell is going to happen next?!”
The book does what any second book in a series should do: it ups the stakes. The reader catches up with Kihirin after the events of The Ruin of Kings where he meets Janel, a character briefly seen in the first book, and Brother Qown, her companion. The story then shifts the focus to Janel and Brother Qown, as they tell their journey that unfolded during the events of book one. While the two narratives in book one switch from different times in Kihrin’s story, having Janel and Qown take turns in telling their journey together keeps the pace moving incredibly fast despite the long length of the book.
A framework device is not uncommon in fiction, especially in fantasy, but doing them well can often be tricky. The Ruin of Kings framework was part of what made it such a great book. In the first, the entire novel is an accounting of events by one noble wizard, Thurvishar D’Lorus, of Kihrin and his jailor, Talon, retelling events of Kirhin’s life. Throughout, Thurvishar leaves footnotes that explaining certain events and gives exposition about the world, which kept the pace of the novel going without the reader being wholly lost. The Name of All Things ups the ante by having Senera, a student of the wizard Relos Var, give the entire account of Janel, Qown, and Kihirin’s meeting and the telling of events the two protagonists of this book give to him, all the while Senera leaves her personal footnotes along the way. If that sounds complicated, it is, now imagine not only pulling that off, but pulling that off well, and having an in-story explanation for why it works.
Lyons’s character work was already great and only gets better in book two. Kihrin’s tale in book one was terrific, but he was always in over his head. Everyone around him, enemies and allies alike, had the advantage because they were more knowledgeable than he was due to either age, status, or privilege. As a result, he was continually reacting instead of acting. On top of that, friends, family, and enemies alike all manipulated him. Janel, on the other hand, grew up a noblewoman and is a natural leader. Likewise, Brother Qown, a scholar and a healer assigned to accompany Janel, is an expert in his fields. Even from the beginning of her tale, Janel and everyone following her are continually acting instead of reacting. People are drawn to her, follow her, and believe in her. Kihrin, for a lot of the first book, did not have that experience. That’s not a criticism of the first book but more of a comparison of how Kihrin and Janel’s stories are different. Still, it is a breath of fresh air to have the protagonist surrounded by people who are trustworthy and likable.
Speaking of a breath of fresh air, Jorat as a setting is one of the best parts about The Name of All Things. Quur feels familiar, but Jorat truly feels like a different culture to its benefit. Not just different from Quur, but distinct from many cultures and settings in fantasy books for a specific reason Jorat is a much more literal horse-based culture, thanks to their former God-King’s obsession with horses, than what you may be familiar with such as the Rohirrim from The Lord of the Rings or the Dothraki from A Song of Ice and Fire. This is reflected in their appearance, their language, and their gender binary, which does not conflate gender with sex. With that god-like power, he also created the Firebloods, horses of extraordinary size, strength, and intelligence that can talk. The Firebloods alone should be enough to get any reader into this book.
Still, if that’s not enough, then know that the plot doesn’t leave many stones unturned. I have grown weary of stories over the past ten years that ask a lot of questions and don’t give a lot of answers. Both The Ruin of Kings and The Name of All Things have handled their revelations like building blocks. When a question comes up about what’s going on, it will lead to an answer that leads to asking more questions and so on. The reader is never left feeling short-changed by the big reveals. Several times, I had to stop reading several times to message my fellow reviewer, Christina Ladd, to holler about a reveal in the book with multiple exclamation points. What will be appreciated about Janel and Qown is no matter the revelation, it never becomes more than a setback. They adjust their plans and continue with whatever they must do to achieve their goals.
The story and the world it takes place in is complex, but nothing so complicated that context clues, the footnotes, and the glossary can’t help with should you be so inclined. It is not unfamiliar territory for anyone who reads fantasy often. The Ruin of Kings was on my had-to-read list as soon as I heard about it, but I did not expect it’s follow up, The Name of All Things to come so soon and to astound me the way it has. Pick up both books and catch up as soon as you can because, like me, you’re going to want to know what happens next in Jenn Lyons’s A Chorus of Dragons series.
The Name of All Things will be released October 29.