Book Review: The Memory of Souls by Jenn Lyons Is An Action-Packed Fantasy Adventure
Author Jenn Lyons made her mark on the fantasy genre last year with her debut novel The Ruin of Kings. This was the first in an epic fantasy series that subverts tropes and reader expectations at every turn. This was followed swiftly by the second volume The Name Of All Things. Now the third title in The Chorus of Dragons series by Jenn Lyon is set for release this week. Let’s take a look at the new novel The Memory of Souls by Jenn Lyons, that will be available worldwide on August 24 from Tor Books.
As there is no way to review The Memory of Souls without discussing the first two books in this series, please be aware of book spoilers to follow.
The Ruin of Kings Subverts The Trope of The Chosen One
Image via MacMillan Publishing
In order to delve into The Memory of Souls, we must first take a look back at the first two volumes in The Chorus of Dragons. Each book is framed with an unreliable narrator telling their story. And in The Ruin of Kings, the narrator is the primary male protagonist named Kihrin. A synopsis of the novel tells us the following about The Ruin of Kings.
Kihrin is the bastard son of a treasonous prince. Drawn into the intrigues and ambitions of his father’s family, his dreams of overcoming his past to become a heroic leader are shattered when he discovers his true destiny isn’t to save the kingdom, but to destroy it…
From the first book in the series, Lyons sets up the trope of the ‘Chosen One’ in order to subvert it. Kihrin is many things: a thief, a bard, and an orphan who discovers that he is a long-lost noble. However it soon becomes clear that being the Chosen One is not all that it is cracked up to be.
Who Has Been Chosen, and Why?
In the first book Kihrin is manipulated and abused by his long-lost family, and then sold into slavery. He is chased across the map by powerful demons, and hounded by gods who want him to do their bidding. In the end he learns that he is the reincarnation of the sliver of a dark god’s soul. He is the one who will fulfill some ancient prophecies that will unleash demonic forces on the world. He has been chosen, yes. But by who?
This question is asked repeatedly over the course of the first two books. Because the gods are not here to play. The Chorus of Dragons has a large cast of characters, and among them are actual gods who are just as fallible as mortals. Kihrin soon discovers that there are many prophecies he is set to fulfill. And one of them details the destruction of the current Empire. Despite resisting this strongly over the course of three books, it is clear to the readers that this would be a good thing.
The Empire as it stands in the first three books is clearly evil. Slavery is common; genocide is encouraged, poverty is rampant, homophobia and misogyny is embedded into the society. There are noble houses who essentially run the Empire, and they are clearly decadent, debaucherous, and entirely corrupt. If ever an Empire needed to be torn down, it is this one.
The Name of All Things Expands The Ensemble Cast
Image via MacMillan Publishing
The second book The Name of All Things makes it clear that Kihrin is also not the only one who has been chosen. Reincarnation is a common theme in the books, with at least one character who can clearly remember all of his past lives. It soon becomes apparent that there was a group of individuals who volunteered for reincarnation, in order to continue fighting a looming magical cataclysm.
Alongside Kihrin is the character of Janel. She is set up in the first book as the primary love interest for Kihrin. But her character is much more than that. The Name of All Things is Janel’s book, her story that is told primarily from her point of view. We learn about the unique society that she comes from, with its gender-bending social norms. And we discover that much like Kihrin, she has also been marked by a demon and chosen by the gods to fight in this endless battle. Also like him, she chafes at the bonds placed on her and the very idea of fate or destiny. Another unlikely Chosen One, who never thought to envision herself as the hero of the story.
The Memory of Souls Raises The Stakes
All of this brings us to newest entry in the Chorus of Dragons series. The Memory of Souls raises the stakes for all of the characters significantly as it reveals the inevitable end of the world is fast approaching. The novel delves deeper into the non-human societies of the world. Among them are the Vané (they are essentially Tolkien-esque Elves only far more sexual and sparkly). The Vané are the last of the immortal races left in the world. The rest gave up their immortality in a powerful ritual that just kind of put a band-aid on the whole widening-abyss-that-will-swallow-the world problem that has been around for centuries. Now it is time for the Vané to perform the ritual, as dictated by the gods.
The majority of the book revolves around trying to convince the Vané to give up their immortality. Which they definitely do not want to do. It is a book full of politics that gives readers a deeper understanding of the world history. But it is also a book that is full of very human moments, with characters falling in love and figuring out their own identities. You would think that from this description, that the third book might be slower paced or even boring. But this is not the case with A Memory of Souls. The book is full of action, with epic battles waged against dragons, demons, and even the gods themselves. But the intimate character moments give the story space to breathe. They allow the reader a glimpse into the increasingly complicated inner lives of the characters.
Image via MacMillan Publishing
The Memory of Souls Will Fully Immerse You In The World
While reading A Memory of Souls I often felt like I was immersed in a complicated role-playing game. This is not a derogatory mark against the book in any way. I grew up reading RPG novels like Dragonlance and The Forgotten Realms series. I am a sucker for a role-playing game. And yes, I would play a game based off this series in a heartbeat.
The side quests that the characters must embark upon add to the complexity of the story. There are magical artifacts aplenty, and there is no one set magical system that everyone must adhere to. Each character has their own unique magical talents that are integral to the plot. The RPG-esque nature of the story might be due to the fact that author Jenn Lyons actually got her start writing for video games. She also credits her own geeky origins to playing Dungeons & Dragons as a kid. These influences are clear in her writing style, and she uses them to their best advantage. The non-human races feel familiar, but are given a new twist. The action is fast-paced and exciting, and it keeps the reader turning pages long into the night.
The Memory of Souls Is The Third Book of A Five-Book Series
Image via Author’s Website
Overall The Memory of Souls is an excellent addition to The Chorus of Dragons series. It introduces some new characters, and adds unexpected depth and complexity to others. This includes the ‘villains’ of the series, including the one who narrates The Memory of Souls. Not even the demons are wholly evil, just alien and unknowable. The gods are not wholly good either, with their own plans and deceptions.
The complexity of the books can sometimes be a bit confusing, what with so much body-swapping and reincarnating going on. But if you delve into the books and fully immerse yourself in the world that Jenn Lyons has so cleverly constructed, you will find the journey to be a highly enjoyable adventure.
Jenn Lyons is almost certainly bound to become the next big name in epic fantasy. And we look forward to seeing where A Chorus of Dragons goes from here.
The Memory of Souls is the third book of A Chorus of Dragons by Jenn Lyons. There are five planned books in the series, with a book set for publication every six months since 2019. The Memory of Souls will be out on August 24, 2020 from Tor/Forge.
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.