This is a re-post of my old review of Lion of Senet, the first instalment in the Second Sons Trilogy by Jennifer Fallon, which at the time I found to be a “forced Tour-de-Force, based on a rather standard setup”, and didn’t like all that much… in hindsight I can also state that the series gets better as it progresses, though.
The story unfolds (if that’s the word) in an ‘unruly’ world (in a celestial/geological/social/political sense) with 2 suns, one of which vanishes for a duration of time at regular intervals – but the people have forgotten this. So, during the last ‘Time of Shadows’ (the only one people remember…) a new ‘religion’ called ‘Shadowdancers’ was founded, or rather made up. Made up because the ‘High Priestess’ found out when the sun would return from ancient sources (yep, there’s an elder civilization which has vanished but left artefacts), and used this information for her own power gain. Her grip on power is/was such that she made the current ruler, the Lion of Senet of the title, sacrifice his youngest son to make the sun come back (of course this deed was done at an opportune point in time, ie just before the sun was due to return). She also instigated the Lion of Senet to invade Dhevyn, leading to a bloody war, due to her personal petty grievances with some people on this court.
So, here are the main actors, to give you a feeling for what we’re looking at:
Dirk Provin – 2nd son of a minor Duke, but actually the oldest son of the real King of Dhevyn (who is on the run), as his mother (who had personal differences with Belagren, the High Priestess) was his lover during the Age of Shadows. Infatuated with Alenor.
Antonov Latanya – Ruler (‘Lion’) of Senet, main political and military power of the time. Believes in the divine mission of his lover, Belagren. His wife (sister of Dirk’s mother) committed suicide after the sacrifice of their son.
Alenor - Princess of Dhevyn, daughter of Queen Rainan (sister of Dirk’s real father). She’s held hostage (sorry, guest) at Anonov’s court. Betrothed to (and besotted by) Kirshov.
Kirshov – 2nd son of Antonov (see a pattern here? There are more of them in the story…). Betrothed to Alenor. Besotted by Miquel, an acrobat/thief and Shadowdancer. Good Friends with Dirk (up to a point).
Belagren – she is the High Priestess of the Shadow Dancers above. Lover of Antonov.
Now, what the book does is pitch these main actors (and a equally intertwined support cast) against each other, always in the most awkward way to create wrong impressions, misunderstandings, and generally drive the plot. The effect is rather grating and painful to read, with a convoluted and not very logical narrative, a bit like a badly written soap opera. The comparison doesn’t stop there, either – the book is written like a screen play, with most of it told in full length, using real-time discussions and background explanations (acting instructions, anyone?) to develop the characters.
There are also other completely overdone bits, starting with the frankly very unusual (and unrealistic) astronomy with the ‘disappearing’ sun, through the ‘everyone is connected to everyone else in some secret or embarrassing way’ approach, to the author’s tendency to display how naïve/stupid/cruel/etc people are again and again and again…
The execution is a shame I feel, as the setting as well as the underlying storyline would have all the makings of an entertaining (albeit still not very novel or realistic) book.
Read it at your peril (I’m not looking forward to the 2nd book of the trilogy waiting on my shelf – any volunteers?), or if you like Jennifer Fallon (or badly written Soap Operas, I guess). Else rather spend your Christmas money on something more enjoyable.
More Jennifer Fallon
This book was received as a free rewview copy from the publisher.
Title: Lion of Senet
Series: Second Son Trilogy
Series Number: 1
Author: Jennifer Fallon
Reviewer URL: http://skating.thierstein.net
Publication Date: 2005
Review Date: Dec 16 2005