“Duty, Honor, Country”. For 200 years the motto of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, has inspired its graduates to give their very best to the service of their country. Many of them have given their very lives as their duty demanded. One of the questions Holly Lisle asks in Talyn, her new fantasy novel, is: Can there come a time when honor outweighs duty?
This is one of the questions that Talyn, the eponymous heroine of the novel, has to grapple with. Another very important one is: Can your enemy become your friend and ally? Along the way, she also must come to grips with trust, love, abuse, and death. Altogether, Talyn has a full life, and the lessons that she learns are vital for all of us.
Holly Lisle has a true and enviable talent with characters. She is able to take her readers deep inside her characters and let us see and hear and feel right along with them. Their pain and heartbreak, joy and love quickly become real to us. Each character speaks with a different voice and has a different personality. Through Talyn, we can see the conflict that tears her heart, and we know the scars will heal slowly. As she faces betrayal after betrayal, as her choices become harder and more painful, Talyn show us just how hard a Mistress honor is. Ultimately, she must learn to trust a former enemy instead of her own people in order to confront their common foe.
Lisle’s mastery of worldbuilding shines through in this novel, as well. This is her first novel set in the world of Korre. I hope to see many more. In Korre, she has created a culturally diverse world populated by varied peoples governed by varied political systems and religions. The interactions between these people are always colored by their regional prejudices and beliefs. The richness of this world promises many possibilities for further novels.
Talyn is a long novel at 524 pages, but so absorbing that I lost an entire weekend living in Korre. The printer did an extraordinary job on the paper and binding, making this a book that will last a long time and survive many readings. It feels solid in your hands, but not too heavy, and would make a nice weapon in a pinch.
Duty, honor, country. In Talyn’s case: duty, honor, Tonk. When these three come into conflict with each other, the result is one damn fine story told by a master storyteller. It engaged my imagination from the first page. The story climbs glorious heights and plunges to hellish depths. From triumph to defeat to love to betrayal, I was never sure exactly where I stood. The twists and turns were dizzying as Talyn struggled to come to grips with a world turned inside out and a relentless evil that would not rest until it possessed her literally body and soul.
Talyn haunts me. The many layers of theme and depth of meaning have kept my mind churning. A second reading awaits me in the near future. Lisle’s willingness to face harsh realities and their consequences always gives her books a cutting edge and the impact of a sledgehammer. Talyn is no exception. It is an intense and absorbing story told very well. Any thinking person will find a lot here to occupy their mind.
Categories: reviews, talyn