Title: The Lyre Thief
Author: Jennifer Fallon
Rating: 4/5 stars
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Harper Voyager Australia in exchange for an honest review.
Looking for an immersive fantasy with female centric stories, filled with court intrigues and a smattering of romance? Look no more because The Lyre Thief has got you covered. Jennifer Fallon elaborates on her existing series and adds a multitude of dimensional, relatable characters in the process with this new series.
Admittedly, The Lyre Thief is my entry into Jennifer Fallon’s expansive world. She has previously laid down a lot of worldbuilding and history with previous series like The Demon Child trilogy and The Hythrun Chronicles. If you’ve read these series in the past, there’s undoubtedly a layer of the book only long time fans can appreciate. Fortunately, I was not confused at all during the read – as Fallon did a great job of easing her reader into this vast universe. The concepts of gods and various court politics at play and introduced slowly – in fact, I did not realise I was reading a new addition to a pre-existing series until I read the blurb. Most of this is because the events in The Lyre Thief follows a fresh cast of characters and different setting to previous entries in the series.
The story predominantly focuses on a couple of royal siblings: Rakaia – a Princess of Fardohnya, and Charisee – her bastard half-sister, who has served as Rakaia’s handmaiden for most of her life. Although the switched identity structure of the story is a narrative we have seen time and again, the siblings were compelling enough to leave me invested in their ordeal. Rakaia switches position with Charisee as her upcoming nuptial to the elderly king of Hythria approaches – her intentions are self-serving, and thus intriguing. The relationship between the sisters are therefore equally complex.
From the start, Rakaia was no perfect, virtuous princess. She was willing to risk her sister’s life in this swap to save herself from the king’s wrath. Although she has countless monologues to try and justify her decision to herself, the text never lets her escape responsibilities. Similarly, Charisee is no Cinderella – burdened by cruel step siblings. Charisee has brains and ambitions, and has never been happy with her lot in life. The two were perfect foil for one another, and I only wish that they got to share more scenes – as the plot soon split their paths. Here was a sibling relationship that were not all sunshine and rainbows – it was fraught with the tension of class divide and deceit. Yet underneath it all, you could still feel the love the pair ultimately had for one another.
Alongside Rakaia and Charisee, there is a whole host of other POV characters – most with much less page time. Here is where the narrative can confuse me a little, as there was a LOT going on all at once. The characters all hail from different locations and kingdom, and without previous knowledges of the Medalon or Hythrun societies, I sometimes floundered as I felt certain characters are more significant than they appear. I definitely need to track down the rest of the series to catch up on these knowledge. Nonetheless, even the side characters in the tale are compelling. Especially the clash of will between Adrina and her mother in law. Here is a series that has no shortage of richly drawn female characters – all with their own motivation and are unabashedly morally gray.
There’s also a nice helping of romantic storyline blossoming for both Rakaia and Charisee. Their potential love interests are obvious the moment they appear – and I can’t say that the romance are unique, but they are both quite sweet. There is no love at first sight here, although the relationships developed a lot quicker than could be believable. Regardless, the guard and queen trope is one I have a weakness for, so I will be waiting on the progression of Charisee’s love story with bated breath in particular.
As mentioned above, the world building is this book is phenomenal – with a lot of the foundation in terms of myth and history built by existing books. The world is compelling, with a mixture of mischievious gods who walk amongst humans – reminiscent of the flawed deities from Greek mythologies. Yet, the humans are able to hold their own against these forces – equally able to scheme and plot their way around the machinations of divine will. In fact, the title of the book refers to the theft of the God of Music’s token – an event with disastrous consequences as it collides with the lives of our protagonists. I felt a lot of the magic and deities were kept out of this first installment, but I have no doubt that they will gain more prominence as the series progresses.
Overall, I highly recommend this to high fantasy lovers who are sick of seeing dudes at the centre of every destiny-altering event. The ladies are definitely the main players here, and they are fantastic! I would advise reading Jennifer Fallon’s previous series to supplement your knowledge if you can.