Posted on July 5, 2006 by Flames
Written by James Lowder
What would happen if the god of murder plotted revenge on his enemies? Would the god’s childish whims bring terror into the hearts of mortals too powerless to stop him? Or would the other gods recognize impending doom and prevent the god’s deadly plans, saving humanity (and their worshippers) in the process?
The fourth in a series, Prince of Lies flirts with horror, magic and mystery. Cyric, lord over the realm of the dead and god of murder, desperately seeks the soul of Kelemvor Lyonsbane who was once lover and companion to Mystra, the goddess of magic. In his zeal for vengeance, Cyric traps several humans into his mad design as easily as if they were pawns on a chessboard. Not only does Cyric search for Lyonsbane’s soul, he also entraps a human female, Rinda, to write his notorious book in an effort to bend the entire world to his will, erasing the gods in all their might.
This well-written novel builds to a massive climax toward the end of the book; Cyric has found a way to outsmart the other gods and goddesses and, from all appearances, it looks like his plans might prove successful. Standing in Cyric’s way throughout the novel is Mystra, the goddess of magic (formerly Midnight); their feud lights the way for Cyric’s plans to entrap Mystra through their laws—the laws of the gods. A few key mortals have a part to play in this grand mystery, however they are not as important as the gods simply because they are the gods’ tools. Take Gwydion for example: tricked into a “noble” death, he unwillingly becomes Cyric’s pawn even though he retains most of his free will. Gwydion retaliates, Cyric punishes him in the worst possible manner (forcibly removing his free will and causing him to commit horrendous acts) and only by the grace of another god is Gwydion rescued. In this world, every choice humans make is still considered “free will” even though sometimes mortals pay a hefty price for their actions.
There is no doubt in my mind that this was a challenging book to write on many levels. First, the book needed to stand alone on its own merit. I have not yet read the other books in this series, but while my careful eye noticed some of the “devices” that Lowder used to bring his readers up to speed on the overarching plot, the story was masterfully written. At no point did it seem like the characters were contrived to proffer a long, repetitive recant of what had already happened to them. Second, this book was written within the Forgotten Realms licensed setting, a tall order for any author. While the book does remain true to the setting, I felt that there was a depth within the characters that seemed both odd and enjoyable to read. I’ve read several books based on licensed settings; some good, some bad. The challenge to writing a novel within such a painstakingly created world, is that at times recognizable characters (within a familiar setting) are more important than an intricately woven plot with three-dimensional characters. Prince of Lies is a novel that conquers “pulp” without straying far from the Forgotten Realms licensed setting.
In this novel, Lowder toys around with the mindsets and attitudes of the gods including: Mask, the god of Intrigue, Cyric, Mystra, and Gond, the Wonderbringer. He also proffers the duality between god and man, and explores each of their limitations. The gods in this book, while all-powerful, each have their own duties to fulfill and have their own set of rules to follow. Indeed, many of the gods’ actions are not for the benefit of humanity, but for their own, single-minded purpose. Mystra and Cyric are notably different from the other gods, because they ascended into godhood from their mortal selves. Here again, Lowder adds another layer to these two gods’ personalities. Mystra and Cyric are both more knowledgeable and almost “better” at their godly duties because they understand their worshippers on an intimate level.
Although the ending was a bit rushed, it almost needed to be once the true identity of Cyric’s sword, Godsbane, was revealed. The plot unravels quickly, spiraling out of control until it reaches its conclusion. Lowder does a good job of keeping his reader guessing right up until the very end.
Fourth in a series, Prince of Lies is an enjoyable read and is a worthy addition to the Forgotten Realms universe.
Reviewer: Monica Valentinelli
Look for Forgotten Realms books at Noble Knight Games.