The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons is the second book in the series that began with the Ruin of Kings. The story picks up only a couple of days after the first book ends. The main character, Kihrin has left the destroyed capital city to go to other parts of the empire looking for allies. Demons have been unleashed on the empire and it will take more than just Kihrin to stop a Hellmarch.
So the thing I don’t like about this book is the way the author addresses the culture of the people in Jorat. The people have a strong affinity for horses so a lot of the way they refer to each other are in horse terms. A young person is a colt, a leader is a stallion, and so on. That on it’s own is not bad. But then the author add is that sexual identity and preference is much more fluid in Jorat than in the rest of the empire And oh but wait some characters used to be female or male but have undergone a complex magical ceremony to change gender. The author then tries to tie this into what horse term a person is assigned.
Any or all of these elements would be fine but the way it is written feels like the author does not really have any understanding of these issues and is just including them because it is popular to do so right now, or someone told her to add in the elements. The whole thing comes across stilted and awkward. That awkwardness distracts from the main story, which is demons taking over the empire and starting a Hellmarch.
I have many friends who have had or currently struggle with gender identity issues and the discrimination that goes with it. The way this is addressed feels like the author is coopting other peoples pain and struggle. If I were to speak to the author I would suggest she find someone to consult with her on this issue to make the whole situation feel more authentic.
So on to the main part of the story. In the first book Kihrin hears about the Black Knight and at the beginning of this book he goes to Jorat to find this knight. He takes a portal to Jorat and arrives at a tavern just as a storm is starting. Well, it looks like Kihrin will have to ride out the storm at the tavern.
It so happens there are a couple of people looking for Kihrin at the tavern and since they “happen” to be in the same place waiting out the storm they may as well talk and get to know each other.
In this book we have two narrators, just like the first. One is Janel and the other is Brother Qowan. Their story timeline will run simultaneously to the one that just ended for Kihrin. Some of the players in Janel’s story are people you will remember from the first book. But in this case you will get more context about these people, for good or ill. When narrators switch, the author adds the element of Kihrin asking questions blending his information into their story (adding some additional context).
If you read the first book you might realized that you have met Janel before, she is the woman Kihrin fights alongside in the hell realm when he is killed and before he is resurrected. The reader will learn that Janel was cursed as a child and every night when she falls asleep in the real world she is in the hell realm, where she stays until the sun rises. This curse gives Janel a lot of knowledge about demons. Using this knowledge she is one of the first people to realized that someone is trying to make demons stronger and destroy the empire.
Unlike the first book, Brother Qowan stays in the same timeline as Janel. We see events from his perspective and often he fills in details that Janel is not aware of. Especially things that happen while she is in the hell realm. Additionally, we learn information from Qowan that he has been forced to keep from his allies for years. A curse was placed on him when he accidentally learned who is behind all the chaos going on. The curse keeps him from speaking on pain of death. But now Qowan can tell what he knows because in the end of the first book Kihrin breaks the magical stone that allows such curses to exist.
I don’t really want to tell too much and ruin the story for those who may choose to read it. But here are the high points. Janel is a Count in her country but the man her grandfather wants he to marry is trying to steal her title and land. This has put her on the run and is how she meets a set of outlaws that will help her in her adventure. In some aspects, Janel’s outlaw band has a Robbin Hood feel to it.
Janel becomes aware of a plot that will threaten Jorat and ultimately their ruler but when she tries to get to the ruler and tell him, Janel finds that she is too late. The ruler is already influenced by the bad guy. Now she must go undercover as a spy into enemy territory. Her band of thieves are still in Jorat causing trouble for the bad guys. By the end of the book all parties are back together and they embark on a plan to stop the bad guy and stop the Hellmarch.
Overall, the book was an okay read. After Janel goes into the enemy territory there is less of the forced and awkward cultural references and the core story gets to take center stage. It was interesting enough that I will probably read the third book when it comes out in Aug 2020; if I remember by then.