Book Review: The House of Always by Jenn Lyons Reveals Secrets
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Book Review: The House of Always by Jenn Lyons Reveals Secrets And Memories As Time Slows Down

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BY May 12, 2021

Jenn Lyons is the author of the Chorus of Dragons series that began with The Ruin of Kings back in 2019. Now only three years later, Lyons has put out her fourth book in the series. It is refreshing to see a fantasy author who consistently outputs great work on a timely schedule. The new book by Jenn Lyons is The House of Always, which follows up on the dramatic battle between gods that occurred at the end of the last book. Like the other books in the series, The House of Always is an action-packed adventure. But this time Lyons slows down for some dramatic emotional and philosophical moments. Let’s take a look at The House of Always by Jenn Lyons, the fourth book in her Chorus of Dragons series.

The House of Always Jenn Lyons Image via MacMillan Publishing

Where Do You Go After The Death of the Gods?

The book picks up shortly after a climactic battle that saw the deaths of many gods and goddesses of the world. Many of the main characters in the series took part in that battle. It commenced after a failed ritual that should have strengthened the prison of the mad god Vol Karoth. While also stripping immortality from the last race who (seemingly) was still blessed with it.

The story starts in media res with another battle. All of our characters are in the midst of an assault that involves both a dragon and an undead kraken. Other books in the series were laid out in an oral storytelling format, with one of the main characters writing the story as they go. And each book so far has largely focused in on one of the main characters and their perspective. But The House of Always takes a slightly different approach. Here Lyons draws from the memories of the characters to form the story.

The House of Always finds the majority of the main characters in the series stuck together in a house that exists outside of time. In this place, time is supposed to move far more slowly than in the outside world. After Senera casts a spell to tie the house to the prison of the mad god Vol Karoth, the rules of time start fluctuating wildly. In another desperate move, Senera also brings many of Kihrin’s friends into this realm for protection. Only they soon discover there is a grave danger in staying there, but they cannot leave.

The House of Always Draws Out Secrets and Memories

They have been pulled in by Vol Karoth in attempt to torment our protagonist – Kihrin. Readers of the books know that Kihrin is the reincarnation of a sliver of Vol Karoth’s soul. He represents most of the fallen god’s lost goodness. Kihrin made a dramatic decision at the end of the last book – The Memory of Souls – sacrificing himself in attempt to reunite the pieces of Vol Karoth’s soul and bring an end to the darkness threatening to swallow the world.

The Memory of Souls by Jenn Lyons Image via MacMillan Publishing

This is a world where people can come back from the dead in a variety of ways. So, Kihrin didn’t seem too concerned about dying at the end of the last book. But he is concerned about his companions suffering from perma-death. So when his friends and lovers are pulled into Vol Karoth’s prison, the two begin a battle deeply rooted in emotion and philosophy. They start pulling memories from the minds of those trapped in the house.

These memories are experienced by every character in the house, and makes up the bulk of the narrative action. Kihrin is trying to prove that there is still goodness in the world, that love can prevail. His grand plan is to reach Vol Karoth’s lost humanity. Meanwhile the dark god is trying to pull out all of the deepest secrets and horrors in everyone’s memory. He wants nothing more than to break Kihrin, and subsume his soul.

Every Character Is Dealing With Trauma

The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons Image via MacMillan Publishing

Over the course of the novel we get POV chapters from pretty much every main character left standing. Teraeth is dealing with some serious trauma after killing his own mother – the goddess of Death – in the last book. Janel is furious with Kihrin for running off and not telling anyone his plans. But she is also harboring a new secret. One that could change everything for the throuple of Kihrin, Janel, and Teraeth. We get to see more interaction between Janel and Teraeth in this book as well. It is nice to see how they love one another as much as they both love Kihrin.

There is also the wizard Thurvishar, who actually doesn’t get much memory on display in this book. He is too busy keeping everything together, and helping Kihrin keep Vol Karoth at bay. But we do get memories from Senera, who recently turned on her mentor Relos Var and switched sides. With her traumatic history and complicated motivations, Senera remains one of the most intriguing characters in a series full of them.

Then there is the unlikely couple of Talea and Xivan, whose December/May romance is surprisingly sweet and effective in this installment. Talea is the former sex slave who is slowly becoming the new Goddess of Luck. Xivan is an undead duchess who finds life returning to her unexpectedly in the titular house of always, as she slowly becomes the next Goddess of Death.

Some New Characters Get To Join The Story

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons Image via MacMillan Publishing

Alongside Senera is another former servant of the villainous Relos Var (who surprisingly doesn’t show up in this book, despite being the main antagonist for the series thus far). The priest Qown is deeply uncomfortable with his memories on display for everyone to experience. Because they reveal a deeper truth about his sexuality that he has been trying to avoid.

Many of the characters in Lyon’s books are extremely queer. But that doesn’t mean homosexuality is widely accepted in the world. Qown’s grappling with his sexuality, and his clear attraction to Kihrin’s cousin Galen D’mon is handled with thoughtfulness and care. Their growing relationship contains many of the sweet moments in the book, but it is a difficult journey for them both to accept their feelings for one another.

Galen himself and his wife Sheloran are somewhat of a surprise addition to the book’s sprawling cast of characters. Their marriage is one of convenience, because they are both secretly gay. But it is clear that they care deeply for one another, and they make a great team. Sheloran herself is a figure of some interest, as she finds out that her own mother is secretly a goddess (a lot of secrets coming to light in this book). They are relatively new characters in this ensemble cast, but they are a worthwhile addition.

Somewhat murkier is the addition of the character Kalindra – a spy and priestess who was once one of “Thaena’s Angels”. She is the former lover of both Kihrin and Teraeth (who are now lovers themselves) and she is also the wife of the now deceased Jarith Milligreest… whose shade is still hanging out trying to protect his wife and infant son as he struggles against becoming a demon. I’m not sure if Kalindra’s story was wholly necessary for this book, but it is clear that the demon shade of Jarith will have some serious ramifications for the world.

Jenn Lyons Sets Up The Endgame In The House of Always

Author Jenn Lyons Image via Author’s Website

The House of Always is the penultimate book in the Chorus of Dragons series by Jenn Lyons. And it expertly sets up the pieces for the endgame. By weaving the stories of each character together, we start to see the ways each character’s journey has impacted the others. Every action has consequences not just for themselves, but also for the fate of the entire world. It’s a heavy weight to bear, and Lyons does an excellent job delving into each character’s emotional and mental state. Most books approaching the end of a series would jump straight into the action, having already set up the character journeys. But Lyons takes the time to investigate each character. She breathes life into them (sometimes literally). And ensures that every complicated character is fully explored, and necessary to the story.

We look forward to seeing how all of these character journeys will end in the final installment of the Chorus of Dragons series by Jenn Lyons. It has certainly been a wild ride so far, and one worth taking. The House of Always by Jenn Lyons is out on May 11, 2021 from Tor/Forge. For more news and reviews, be sure to follow Comic Years on Facebook and Twitter today.

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Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.

A Chorus of DragonsBook ReviewEpic FantasyFantasy SeriesFemale AuthorsJenn LyonsLGBTQThe House of Always

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