24428239Time still heals all wounds, for now. But the world grows thin around this tome as the letters light up on the pages, their magic burning bright, casting long shadows toward the black void of Osheim.

As the sun is setting on the Broken Empire, shading dreams into reality, there is still a little time left for laughs, there’s still a margin for a handful of clever tricks and foolish hopes, there’s still a crack to let the last rays of joy in before it slowly closes around each step leading down to hell.

The Liar’s Key swallows you in a big wave, locks you into its tale, snatching the world away. It follows the journey of Prince Jalan Kendeth and Snorri ver Snagason from the village of Trond, pursued by foes, lured by enemies, with a score of deceits dancing to the beat of the key all about them, yet still finding aid in unexpected places and allies in unforeseen situations as they advance across the grand chessboard of their times and beyond.

While in Prince of Fools we learned of Snorri’s family from tales which and when he decided to share with us, Jalan’s memories weave around The Liar’s Key like the hook-briar, manifesting in ways that are both unpredictable, unsafe, and wild – like magic itself. Through this twofold journey, one leading him on a perilous path south across the Empire, the other pulling him deeper into the history of the Kendeths, he learns more about his family than in all his life spent at home and we in turn learn more about him, piercing through the layers of self-deception he carefully built around his past hurts. Through this we might finally understand that despite appearances he’s not so different from Jorg Ancrath in some respect. They are both conflicted characters, growing through or around wounds painful enough to corrupt the mind, trying to keep ahead as claws of their past are catching at their ankles, dreading their own imaginations, their true nature pouring out of them only at times when fear or bitterness cannot longer stay their hearts.

Mark Lawrence has a wonderful imagination which he serves on ravishing prose, expertly spiced with devilish laugh-out-loud humour. He continues to hone his skills as a writer, hooking us clean off with the prologue, weaving the storylines around us tight enough to steal reality, leaving us begging for more.

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*11949267_10153604755012156_5495978527405203371_nI might not be mistaken when I claim to be the only one who The Liar’s Key was handed to as a ‘required reading’ last year, when I was asked if I would read and critique the first draft of The Wheel of Osheim.

Without any spoilers offered I would only say: when a book lights a fire in you, you burn its mark into the world. And as it happened, on a cold December day, I sat down at the computer and started building a whole site dedicated solely to Mark Lawrence and his works.

For a name I decided on the one George R. R. Martin gave him when last summer he referred to Mark in our conversation, hence That Thorn Guy was born. But as they have it in certain far-away villages under those mysterious northern lights, this is a story to be told around the fire for another night.

traitorsbladeLately I find I’ve been reading fewer and fewer books by fewer and fewer authors. I’m getting more and more fussy with the quality of the writing and more and more impatient with stories that prove to be too slow in capturing my interest. In all honestly I fear I’m turning into a bit of a dragon, the grumpy kind, tricky to satisfy and easily annoyed. Which is not fun! Not even for me!

For this reason I must say how pleased I was to come across a book I didn’t just judge to be good, but one that finally also made me relax into just enjoying the hell out of a great adventure, a captivating tale well told.

While there was a good pace to the story, I found the fast but smooth changes in tone and mood to be also just as captivating, light-hearted banter giving way to a darker shade of humour, pain and misery bleeding into exciting discoveries, galloping into unforeseen plot-twists, and every now and then a touch of love and hope, quickly gone again like the sun on a windy, fast-changing April day sky.

This book carries with it an unmistakable promise. A promise which whispers to the reader that there’s a lot more to come. I look forward to this more.

tangled-rapunzel-tower‘The key to unlocking the heart of a princess and opening her lips to a true love’s kiss lies in slaying her evil foe in a moment of her greatest despair’, advised old Gregor, the court magician.

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Prince Robert thought of his words as he started to relax his clean-shaven, carefully balmed face into an easy smile and took off his helm. The promise of the most powerful magic money could buy was duly delivered as the glimmering light ball soared into the air, meeting the approaching dragon high above, forcing it into a heavy sleep as the distance was rapidly eaten away by its hungry flight. It couldn’t have been as hungry as those peasants were who paid the price, though. Those idiots met their death a lot quicker.

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The prince glanced back at the tower trying to glimpse his lady, screaming for help in the window just a minute ago, lifted his sword and advanced on the unconsciously lying magnificent beast. Every step took him closer to the dream he’d been cradling for this past year or so and he fancied he could already taste the victory in his mouth. Thus when the arrowhead punched through his throat, mixing the flavour with the salty tang of mortality, his eyes widened in disbelief.

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He slowly fell to his knees, as the princess ran past him.

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‘Gregor, you liar!’ he thought bitterly, watching the fair maiden throwing the crossbow aside and lovingly cradling the monster’s neck, covering the rough scales in gentle kisses. He hated all of them in that moment, as his life and dreams slipped away in ragged breaths from him, but most of all he despised the conspiring magician and his false words. The words whose truth remained constant even as their meaning changed in his eyes.
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Originally written for the Liar’s Key writing competition in April, 2015

half-the-world-uk-hbI recently read Half the World by Joe Abercrombie, which is the second book of his Young Adult series, Shattered Sea – out now!  I felt this book deserved a few words from me for a number of reasons. For one, it doesn’t happen to me every day that I’m unexpectedly presented with an advanced copy at a book signing, and by none other than the editor. We have to be realistic about these things. I still remember queueing up with it to the author and taking him by surprise. Once he signed it, however, there was something else he said to me. He said he was pleased with this one. That he thought it was good. But, you know, it wasn’t even what he said that caught me off-guard, it was the way he said it. It wasn’t his loud, charismatic, self-confident Lord Grimdark-self. This was a quiet, honest and almost shy assessment of someone, who is continuously giving himself a mighty hard time while striving for perfection and who finally managed to win a little victory over his cruellest critic, himself. And I knew this book was going to be seriously good. And it makes me wonder if this is what it means to be a writer. That there and then I just take one look at him and somehow I understand. And somehow I just know.

Alas the book did not disappoint. Among many things I was of course impressed by how well the main characters and their relationships were captured, the twists and turns of the dark plot he span, but what’s more, I was impressed by what the book delivered. Because how do you set out writing something that your own children might read one day? How do you tell them, how can yojoeabercrombie-c1-1600x2400u make them listen and understand that the world is not like they might think it is, that it’s not like they have it in the tales? Why, of course: with a tale of your own. A tale that makes you re-consider what’s right and what’s wrong, reminds you that every act comes with its own consequences and teaches you about acceptance and the power of not just the steel, the physical strength, but also of the words.

So last Sunday I once again turned up at his signing to tell him that the book was indeed good. Just like every single time I’m about to meet him I nervously tried to think of a few words to say about myself, convinced he’ll have no idea who I was. What to say though, I puzzle, which part of me was worth mentioning that could possibly tell him who I might be. But to my surprise somehow he always already seems to know. And it makes me wonder if this is what it means to be a writer. That he just takes one look at me and somehow he understands. And somehow he just knows.

Photo by Lou Abercrombie

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