Lion of Senet promises an engaging trilogy. Review by Violet Kane

Book Cover
With this book, Jennifer Fallon opens her Second Sons trilogy, and makes a solid addition to the growing sub-genre of political fantasy.

At the opening of Lion of Senet exiled Dhevyn king, Johan Thorn is thrust out of hiding when his ship crashes on the island of Elcast. While the Duke of Elcast is sympathetic to the conquering King, called the Lion of Senet, the Duchess of Elcast is a former lover of Thorn's. For over a decade she has been hiding the identity of hers and Thorn's bastard son, Dirk, passing him off as Duke Wallin's second son. When the Lion of Senet and the High Priestess—who controls the kingdom with fabricated revelations from an all-powerful Goddess—arrive on Elcast to seize Thorn for extradition, tensions collide. Meanwhile, Thorn's exile community learns of his capture. They know that the devious torture methods of the Lion of Senet will likely break Thorn, putting their exile enclave in danger, but also ruining all hopes of the dormant Dhevyn rebellion from ever succeeding. In exile on Mil lives, not only Thorn's family, but master mathematician and madman Neris Veran, the man whose astronomical calculations allowed the High Priestess establish hers and the Goddess's hegemony in the first place. Finding Neris and learning the rest of his astronomical discoveries will allow the High Priestess to predict the cycles of the sun, claiming revelation from the Goddess in perpetuity. To safeguard Mil, and Neris's secrets, two brave youths, Reithan—Johan's stepson—and Tia—Neris's daughter—set out for Senet to find Thorn and execute his last wish: to kill him before the Lion of Senet can torture any secrets out of him.

Some reviewers have called Lion of Senet a cross between science fiction and fantasy, noting its prominent dual-solar astronomy, and theme of science vs. faith. However, fans of modern fantasy will recognize these devices as two popular trends in the current genre. The non-earthly astronomy (and geology) serves to create a better sense of an other-earth world, as well as to speculate on the resulting elements of culture. The science vs. faith aspect is a natural outgrowth of the sub-genre trend many people (I'm not one of them) call "religious fantasy." Fans who are hungry for character-driven stories will welcome Fallon's trilogy. Devotees of morally ambiguous political fantasy in the vein of GRR Martin will be pleased to see that the trend is catching on. This story is primarily about its characters, the motives, passions and lies among them, the power struggle of the ambitious, the tough choices of those caught in the middle. Fantasy fans will find this novel to be both a crowd-pleaser and a challenging character exploration. Science fiction fans may find this book more palatable than most fantasy because its "magic" lies primarily in its astronomy, geology and speculative cultures.

I find Lion of Senet to be a welcome addition to the modern fantasy scene. It picks up on many of the best trends (not least of which is well-drawn characters) in the current fantasy scene, leaving out many of its worst (e.g. it's a trilogy, and already finished!). This book left me anxious to read the next installment and hopeful about the promises it holds.

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Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.