Spinner of Lies by Bruce Cordell

Memories of his past incarnations haunt Demascus, even as he searches for stolen portraits that contain the trapped souls of demigods. Meanwhile, drow creep beneath the city of Airspur, intent on precipitating war between Akanûl and a rival nation. As Demascus attempts to win freedom from the ghost of his murdered lover, he agrees to thwart the drow’s secret scheme, sending him on a trail that stretches between the Demonweb, Airspur, and an island that appears on no map.

Spinner of Lies is the sequel to Sword of the Gods and takes place a few months after Sword of the Gods. We meet back up with the cast of the previous book, Demascus, a divine assassin known as the Sword of the Gods, Riltana, a wise cracking windsoul genasi who steals from the wealth of Airspur, and Chant Morven, a pawn shop owner with a network of informants that keep him abreast of events in the city.  There is a new addition to the group, Jaul Morven, Chant’s son.  Their relationship is not on the best of terms and this provides a great side plot to the story.  I really enjoyed group’s interactions, especially Riltana’s scathing comments to Demascus in the heat of battle.  Bruce’s crowning achievement is his characters. He is able to weave a tight story but at the same time you get to hear the character’s inner monologues describing their hopes and fears.  Things like Demascus’s fear of losing his identity, Riltana’s hopes for her estranged lover, and Chant’s worry for his son, helped draw me in and really feel a kinship with the characters. Readers of Bruce’s Abolethic Sovereignty  will be happy to see Captain Thoster, the captain of the Green Siren, again.  There is also a reference to the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons module, Tomb of Horrors, that longtime players will notice.  (I really enjoyed the reference).

There are lots of things going on in Spinner of Lies.  The first is Queen Arathane’s  request for Demascus and company to discover the reason communication has stopped to a mine on a secret island that left unchecked could lead to war with Tymanther, next is Demacus’s murdered lover that has come back to haunt him, then stolen paintings that hold the souls of demigods, and finally a potential drow invasion.  That is a lot of ground to cover in just one book but Bruce takes these plots and spins them (no pun intended) into thread that reaches a very satisfying conclusion.

Central to the plot are the drow.  The drow have been a favorite race of mine since I first read R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt series years back.  Why are they lurking in Airspur and who are they in league with?  Spinner of Lies  is part of Wizards of the Coast’s Rise of the Underdark, an event that will have bold, sweeping ramifications across (and under) the Forgotten Realms.

Even with multiple plots going on there is still time to focus on the main character, Demascus.  He is a divine assassin, the “Sword of the Gods”, an instrument of divine retribution.  These words are inscribed on Demascus’s sarcophagus:

“Agent of Fate, Emissary of Divine Judgement, Cuttter of Destiny’s Thread. You died as you lived, and you will live again, Demascus, Sword of the Gods.”

Yet he is still only a shadow of his former self and without his artifact, the Whorl of Ioun,  he is more human than divine agent of vengeance.  But is this necessarily a bad thing?  Demascus wants to be more human, and not a tool of the gods, to control is own destiny.  He can feel the other part of himself, the part that revels in destruction, waiting to take over, and has to fight to keep it in check.  It would be so easy to let that part take over but it would truly cost him his humanity.  There is a scene where Demascus seeks divine counsel and things do not go well.  The dialog that occurs during that scene is fantastic.

I am ashamed to admit it, but I normally do not think on how well the title of a book fits a story,  I concentrate on the characters and the story itself, but this time the title really stood out to me.  Spinner of Lies is a very apt title as it perfectly describes the parallel plot lines in the book.  I will not go into detail as to spoil it for other readers, but it was very well done.

I have been a longtime reader of Bruce’s work and he continues to write books worthy of any fantasy reader’s bookshelf, and Spinner of Lies is no exception.  I give this book 5 stars and highly recommend it.

Spinner of Lies will be available in ebook on June 5, 2012 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

This review was of an ARC from NetGalley.

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