City of Lies

City of Lies is the second book in Lian Tanner’s The Keepers trilogy, and is well worth a read. Like Museum of Thieves, City of Lies starts off with an extremely simplistic-seeming premise (albeit a unique one) and characters who seem one-dimensional. However, as you progress into the book you quickly discover the complexity and very real issues underlying this world. Goldie Roth encounters homelessness, poverty, the after-effects of torture, and more as she tries to rescue her kidnapped friends from Spoke, the city of lies.

What impresses me most about Lian Tanner’s books is that although they are clearly written to be accessible to children, they manage to paint a fascinating world peopled with likable yet flawed characters who must deal with with humor and tragedy, kindness and cruelty, the mundane and the magical. These are also one of the few fantasies that feels truly unique, rather than being derivative of the tired old tropes of medieval society and stereotypical magical creatures.

Plot summary

The plot summary contains spoilers! Show it anyway.

Ten months after she first slipped her chain, Goldie Roth’s parents have returned from the House of Redemption scarred and unable to discuss the trauma they faced. In order to care for them, she swears that she will not accept the position of fifth keeper of the museum of Dent, but as she goes to deliver her message, Toadspit and his sister Bonnie are abducted from her side by a pair of goons.

She stows away in the goons’ boat to Stoke, where she discovers the Festival of Lies is just around the corner (a day when everyone has to lie all the time, and everyone hopes they will be caught in a magical Big Lie that will allow them to live any fantasy they can think of for a day and a night). She also meets up with a feral cat, who she thinks could almost be an idle-cat, except that it hasn’t slaughtered them all on the spot.

Toadspit and Bonnie have been kidnapped by a mysterious man named Harrow and his second-in-command Flense. She meets Pounce (a jaded young man who believes the world is out to get him) and Mouse (a shy mute who travels in the company of twelve fortune-telling mice) and they give her a place to stay for one of her homeless nights in the city.

Meanwhile back in Jewel, the Flugelman has turned himself in and promises to try and help locate the missing children from his prison.

She tracks down Bonnie and Toadspit, frees them with the unwitting help of some musical convicts, and returns to Pounce and Mouse. Pounce promises to help them find a way back to Jewel, but betrays them to Flense who, Goldie discovers, is actually Blessed Guardian Hope. Hope and her two goons Toadspit, Bonnie, Goldie, and Mouse in the entrance to a sewer and wait for them to drown. Hope reveals that the Flugelman masterminded their abduction in hopes of working his way back into the good graces of Jewel; he evidently still dreams of ruling it.

Fortunately, Goldie is able to trigger a Big Lie by singing the First Song, and she claims to be Princess Frisia, a warrior princess from the deep past who Bonnie professed to admire in the beginning of the book.

Everyone ends up on the docks as the Big Lie ends, and Goldie and company try to escape on the same boat they took to Spoke. The two goons get on board and capture them, however. Blessed Guardian Hope is getting ready to kill everyone, but is interrupted by the musical convicts, who ensnare her in a Big Lie in which they are the hunters and she the prey. They run off, with Hope injured just before she gets out of sight.

There is a scuffle aboard the boat, Pounce reveals that he stowed away, and the nastier of the two goons goes overboard and feeds the sharks. Goldie discovers that the little voice that has talked in her head for so long is Princess Frisia herself, and they take with them from the Big Lie Frisia’s bow and sword. Goldie also is gifted/cursed with the wolf-sark, a berserk rage that comes over her when she draws Frisia’s sword. Goldie decides she doesn’t want to kill people to get what she wants, and gives the sword to Toadspit.

The book ends with everyone headed back to Jewel, and the Flugelman waiting to be freed from his bonds by his hired mercenaries who are attacking the city.

One other opinion

  1. logan graham says:

    I love this book