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Mother of Lies
Dave Duncan
Tor, 352 pages

Mother of Lies
Dave Duncan
Dave Duncan is a former geologist and recipient of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Achievement Award. His previous works include two four-volume sagas, A Man of His Word and A Handful of Men. He lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Dave Duncan Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Children of Chaos
SF Site Review: Tales of the King's Blades
SF Site Review: The Gilded Chain
SF Site Review: Future Indefinite
SF Site Review: The Great Game

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

In this sequel to Children of Chaos, the four children of the Doge of Celebre, who were taken hostage as small children by the brutal Bloodlord Stralg, have re-united as young adults and are trying to return to their home land of Florengia. It's vital they get back soon because the Werists, who successfully invaded Florengia fifteen years before, are losing their grip. Long suppressed factions in Vigaelia are rebelling against Stralg's regime, which has been steadily weakened by the effort of maintaining long supply lines over the face to Florengia.

But the true force behind Vigaelia, Stalg's sister Saltaja, remains as dangerous as ever. Death and suffering only increase her powers, since she was dedicated in childhood to the goddess of Death. As long as she can control the minds of the people around her, she is almost invincible, and if she should cross into Florengia ahead of the siblings, there may be no city of Celebre left to which to return.

The setting of Mother of Lies can truly be described as multifaceted, since it's a dodecahedral world (with twelve 5-sided faces). The edges where the faces meet are high mountains, extremely cold and with thin air. This makes a fine backdrop for the protagonists' gruelling trek through the Nardalborg Pass to Florengia, complete with mammoths, were-warriors, ice bridges and magical villainy.

As always, Dave Duncan has a deft touch for creating heroes we can cheer for and villains to hiss at. Saltaja is a particularly twisted evil-doer, from her incestuous background to her cruel habits with maidservants.

All the characters, even the bit players, are well drawn, and the action is leavened with wry friction between the newly-reunited siblings. Benard is particularly fun -- a charming and somewhat feckless artist who is occasionally blessed by his goddess, Anziel, with eccentric miracles. I also enjoyed the travails of Orlad, the brother who was raised as a Werist soldier and has no idea how to handle his changed fortunes, nor how to respond to the amorous advances of his closest flank-mate, Waels.

Mother of Lies has a large cast, with four protagonists and all their hangers on, plus assorted villains, rebels and relatives back in Florengia. Duncan handles this competently, but it still takes effort for the reader to keep everyone straight. In fact, Mother of Lies reads more like the second half of one large novel than a stand-alone book and because it had been a year since I read the prequel, I found that I'd lost momentum. Also, whereas the first book was fresh and the plot was only gradually revealed, in Mother of Lies the situation is already established and the goals are relatively straightforward. Despite the machinations of the evil Saltaja, I found the second book less suspenseful than the first.

Nonetheless, this is a diverting read. For maximum enjoyment, I'd recommend getting both books and reading them in immediate sequence.

Copyright © 2007 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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