In the aftermath of the Ritual of Night, everything has changed.
The Eight Immortals have catastrophically failed to stop Kihrin’s enemies, who are moving forward with their plans to free Vol Karoth, the King of Demons. Kihrin has his own ideas about how to fight back, but even if he’s willing to sacrifice everything for victory, the cost may prove too high for his allies.
Now they face a choice: can they save the world while saving Kihrin, too? Or will they be forced to watch as he becomes the very evil they have all sworn to destroy.
The House of Always is book 4 in Jenn Lyons’ A Chorus of Dragons series, and I am just going to come out and say it: I loved this book. Not like, “hey y’all, this is a really good book”. Nope.
I. Loved. This. Book.
For so many reasons. Let me count the ways.
As if the way the series was designed was not already complex enough (read my review of book 3, The Memory of Souls, here), The House of Always piles on the narrative layers. It starts off as all books in this series do, someone(s) reading an accounting of someone(s) else of the events that transpired. In the case of this book, it is Senera’s account as read by Thurvishar given to him by Talon. I think I got that right? Anyway, as I mentioned in my previous review, I enjoy how Lyons goes out on a limb with these differing perspectives. I think it speaks to the author’s talent as a writer, to be able to see this story in so many different dimensions. Stop me if you have heard this before.
But, wait… there’s more…
The House of Always does not stop there. The book is goes deep into different characters’ experiences with the story so far, one perspective after another, while continuing the current narrative at the same time. I cannot even begin to describe the value this set up brings to the book. First, as I previously mentioned, telling the story in this way adds so many layers of suspense as the characters (and the reader) learn more about each other’s actions, feelings, and motivations. This is important because the plot puts almost all of the characters in the series into a lighthouse where they cannot leave. They traveled there willingly as a way to rescue Kihrin (who they think has been trapped in a piece of Vol Karoth’s soul), and now they are trapped inside. Everyone’s dirty laundry gets aired out, and each character has to decide how having this knowledge changes the nature of their relationship, and that is a really important aspect of the book, because the friend-enemy-lover-acquaintence-frienemy-homieloverfriend connections were already complex. This situation just turned that up to 100, and I was basking in the “Oh no he/she/they didn’t!” moments.
And it is not just sharing of information, but most of the characters are finally (FINALLY!) made to account for their actions. There is nothing like having to look someone you have harmed (whether they know it or not) in the face and having to explain yourself. It really hits home emotionally.
Another positive about the storyline is that it is a great medium for explaining events that have already happened. Again, I mentioned in my review of book 3 that Lyons is an expert in dropping knowledge in a no info dumpy way but working it into the events of the book. So many missing pieces of the story are explained, so many holes filled in. Between the reincarnations, resurrections, revivals, and returns I honestly have no idea how Lyons keeps track of it all (you think GRRM has troubling keeping track of his characters’ family trees and relationships, Lyons’ is much more complicated). The House of Always does a great job of backfilling so much of the narratives from the first three books that were missed due to that character’s perspective not being covered in a certain event.
I have not even gotten to the main storyline, which I will not go into detail about in order to keep this non-spoilery. As I mentioned before, this is all a precursor to trying to save Kihrin, and the gang pulls out all the stops. There is so much going on there, and it gets super twisty along the way. It is a great storyline that results in a final push toward the finale. I have no idea how this is going to end, but I cannot wait to read it.
Lyons consistently takes risks in this series that pay off big. It is clear to me the author did not set out to write something standard. Lyons is making her own rules and carving out her own space the fantasy genre. Case in point: The House of Always is epic fantasy meets escape room thriller with a touch of horror, which is a combination I never would have dreamed up. But, not only am I here for it, I crave it. Jenn Lyons is an absolute genius, and I eagerly await the finale (2022 cannot come soon enough); in the meantime, this series gets a strong recommendation from me. You have nine months to catch up.