The Liar's Key - Mark Lawrence


For those of you who have had to wait a year for this book I provide a brief note to Book 1, Prince of Fools, so that your memories may be refreshed and I can avoid the exquisite pain of having to have characters tell each other things they already know for your benefit.

Here I carry forward only what is of importance to the tale that follows.

Jalan Kendeth (grandson of the Red Queen) and Snorri ver Snagason (a very large Viking) set off from Red March (northern Italy) for the Bitter Ice (northern Norway), bound together by a spell that cursed one of them to be light-sworn and the other dark-sworn.

Jalan is now dark-sworn and visited each sunset by a female spirit called Aslaug.

Snorri is light-sworn and visited each sunrise by a male spirit called Baraqel.

They travelled to the Black Fort to rescue Snorri’s wife and surviving child from Sven Broke-Oar and agents of the Dead King, including necromancers, unborn, and Edris Dean. This rescue failed. Snorri’s family did not survive.

Jalan, Snorri, and Tuttugu, a fat and slightly timid Viking, are the three survivors of the quest to the Black Fort. They have returned to the port town of Trond and spent the winter there.

Snorri has Loki’s key, a magical key that will open any lock. The Dead King wants this key very much.

Of their enemy at the Black Fort it is possible that Edris Dean and a number of the Hardassa (Red Vikings) survived, along with a handful of necromancers from the Drowned Isles.

Jalan’s grandmother, the Red Queen, remains in Red March with her elder sister, known as the Silent Sister, and her misshapen elder brother, Garyus. It was the Silent Sister’s spell that bound Snorri and Jalan together.

A number of powerful individuals use magic to manipulate events in the Broken Empire, often standing as the controlling interests behind many of the hundred thrones. The Dead King, the Lady Blue, the ice witch Skilfar, and the dream-mage Sageous are four such individuals. Jalan met Skilfar and Sageous on the way to the Black Fort. The Dead King has attempted to kill Jalan and Snorri several times. The Lady Blue is engaged in some long and secret war against the Red Queen and appears to be guiding the Dead King’s hand, though perhaps he doesn’t know it.


Two men in a room of many doors. One tall in his robes, stern, marked with cruelty and intelligence, the other shorter, very lean, his hair a shock of surprise, his garb a changing motley confusing the eye.

The short man laughs, a many-angled sound as likely to kill birds in flight as to bring blossom to the bough.

“I have summoned you!” The tall man, teeth gritted as if still straining to hold the other in place, though his hands are at his side.

“A fine trick, Kelem.”

“You know me?”

“I know everyone.” A sharp grin. “You’re the door-mage.”

“And you are?”

“Ikol.” His clothes change, tattered yellow checks on blue where before it was scarlet fleur de lis on grey. “Olik.” He smiles a smile that dazzles and cuts. “Loki, if you likey.”

“Are you a god, Loki?” No humour in Kelem, only command. Command and a great and terrible concentration in stone-grey eyes.

“No.” Loki spins, regarding the doors. “But I’ve been known to lie.”

“I called on the most powerful—”

“You don’t always get what you want.” Almost sing-song. “But sometimes you get what you need. You got me.”

“You are a god?”

“Gods are dull. I’ve stood before the throne. Wodin sits there, old one-eye, with his ravens whispering into each ear.” Loki smiles. “Always the ravens. Funny how that goes.”

“I need—”

“Men don’t know what they need. They barely know what they want. Wodin, father of storms, god of gods, stern and wise. But mostly stern. You’d like him. And watching—always watching—oh the things that he has seen!” Loki spins to take in the room. “Me, I’m just a jester in the hall where the world was made. I caper, I joke, I cut a jig. I’m of little importance. Imagine though . . . if it were I that pulled the strings and made the gods dance. What if at the core, if you dug deep enough, uncovered every truth . . . what if at the heart of it all . . . there was a lie, like a worm at the centre of the apple, coiled like Oroborus, just as the secret of men hides coiled at the centre of each piece of you, no matter how fine