Book Review : The House of Always

Book Review : The House of AlwaysThe House of Always (A Chorus of Dragons #4) by Jenn Lyons
Published by Tor Books on May 11th 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic, LGBTQ
Pages: 529
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What if you were imprisoned for all eternity?
In the aftermath of the Ritual of Night, everything has changed.
The wizard Relos Var and the powerful demon Xaltorath are both moving forward with their plans to free and control the King of Demons so they can take over the world.
Kihrin has his own ideas about how to achieve victory, but for the friends, enemies, and lovers who have been unwillingly gathered together to help him, the cost may prove far too dear.
Stopping their enemies from freeing Vol Karoth is looking less and less possible.
Because—thanks to Kihrin—they're now trapped in the same prison as the King of Demons himself.

The House of Always picks up right where its predecessor, The Memory of Souls left off. Unfortunately, I found that the title of the novel was a bit too fitting as I found this latest entry in A Chorus of Dragons to be eternal. The House of Always displays the worst usage of the author’s nontraditional storytelling methods and perspective jumping, with characters taking turns using telepathy to show the series big bad what amounts to the true power of friendship. This display is all in the hopes of preventing him from destroying the entire world and everything in it. 


“But the rest of you? You all could be friends. Or are friends. Maybe you lot can band together and prove that friendship really is all we need to defeat all the evils in the world. Wouldn’t that be a hilarious joke?”


Needless to say, this entire storyline didn’t work for me. Even the characters, who somehow I still manage to care about after they share all the times they’ve backstabbed each other, remark on the ridiculousness of their venture. This is pretty much the only agreement these characters reach, with the rest of them constantly bickering and at each other’s throats because they’re trapped together with no way to escape other than to pacify the Vol Karoth, The King of Demons. And when they’re not arguing, suddenly they’re reconciling broken relationships and making out or having sex. I found this absolutely baffling, as they’re all trapped in a building with the King of Demons, who is judging the merits of the world existing on their own god-awful actions. Seems like a weird time to have sex when the world and everything you care about is stake, but maybe that’s just me. I also literally guffawed one of these moments as characters decide to have relations to somehow make the King of Demons jealous. I really don’t follow the thought processes of these characters. 


One would really think that after the way The Memory of Souls left off on the dramatic cliffhanger of Kihrin killing himself via letting Talon eat his brain so she could impersonate him while he sought to defeat Vol Karoth, that there would be more of a payoff. But no, Tareath lays in bed, Janel gives him a pep-talk, and they all meet up with him in the weird afterlife/soul realm (obviously I am unclear on these details), with what felt to me like pretty little fanfare. The biggest issue they all have with his failed martyrdom attempt is that he didn’t consult them. One’s lover commiting suicide by proxy seems like it should be a bigger deal to get over, but it’s really not. In fact, it’s mostly dealt with with humor:


“I’d assumed I’d either have solved the issue by the time I met up with them (and thus it wouldn’t be a problem) or I would be dead and it … wouldn’t be a problem. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might end up in a between state where I was dead but also available to be yelled at.”


It also didn’t help matters that The House of Always  offers by far the most confusing non-traditional narration out of the entire series. This is in stark contrast to The Memory of Souls, which I thought had really hit its stride and provided the least obnoxious and confusing narration and perspective out of the whole series. But in the House of Always, I was constantly confused who’s telepathic share-and-tell time it was and when, as it hopped all over the place. Even the titles at the beginning of chapters denoting who was telling what and when did not help me much to figure out who was narrating, where and when.


I also found myself somewhat dismayed that characters who had died were “Returned” back to life. Though I liked one of these characters, Galen, his romance with Qown really irked me for many reasons. Despite my best efforts, I really don’t like Qown. I’m not over his betrayal in previous books, or his penchant for masochism, or his crippling insecurities. I’ve always really liked the character of Galen, so I was dismayed that he fell in insta-love with Qown. And I don’t really understand why, as Qown still works for Relos Var and is essentially a spy, doesn’t think he’s worthy of being loved, and has a track record for betrayal. All we are really told is that suddenly he’s attractive and thin from starving himself in the previous book. I don’t know why the one gay character has to fall for the only available single man in The House of Always, but that’s exactly what happens.


“Qown nodded. ‘I’m just—’ He shook his head. ‘I can’t make this right.’

‘Sure you can,’ Teraeth said. ‘Help us fix this. That’ll make it right. We’re not turning Senera away. Hell, we’re not turning me away. You think you’re too irredeemable to join the save-the-world club? Please.'”


But the novel is teeming with these coincidences. If characters don’t know each other through someone or through a weird chain of events, they know each other in past lives and were probably married to each other, or worship the same God or something. It’s a little ridiculous how incestuous this entire cast of characters is, and I really had trouble suspending my belief that all of these people just happened to know each other. In a way, The House of Always recognizes these extreme coincidences by repeatedly stating “it’s a small world.” That cliché didn’t really work for me or to help suspend any of my disbelief. 


I’m also perpetually disappointed that in a series called A Chorus of Dragons, that there just really isn’t that much screen time for those dragons. Sure, we have characters with secret forms of dragons, and dragons being general nuisances and destroying temples and cities, but not a whole lot else. Of course, when the dragons do appear, I find them really fascinating. But this book’s dragon cameo was very short and “off-page”, so to speak, so I was a little disappointed. However, at least there was a teensy bit more time for a Kraken in The House of Always. Sadly though, there wasn’t too much time spent on the Kraken either, or on the super cool island filled with the Devon Prophecies (essentially a library) and monks who study them. I want more secret island libraries and organizations! And Krakens. And Dragons. 


Though I really had trouble getting through The House of Always, and even considered not finishing the title and giving up on the series, I still stuck around because I care about the characters and the world, despite how perpetually confusing the series as a whole is. I also did enjoy facets of this book, mainly those which centered on Kalindra, Talon, and Senera. As always, I really like author Jenn Lyon’s humor and wit that shines through the often serious topic of the series, that deal with topics like slavery, rape, betrayal, and sexual assault. Though in this entry of the series, I found a lot of these jokes to be a bit too on the nose to the point of breaking the fourth wall, to be honest.


I still plan on reading the next book in the series, but I am feeling a little skeptical of how much I will enjoy it after The House of Always. I really didn’t care for the whole friendship-is-magic-and-all-you-need-message, the insta-love of characters, the coincidences, and the easy resurrections of previously killed characters, or the small screen time of dragons and krakens. As a whole, I feel that A Chorus of Dragon has really provided me with a rollercoaster reading experience, filled with a lot of highs and lows. I feel that I either really like one of the books in the series, such as The Ruin of Kings or The Memory of Souls, or I really don’t enjoy them much and struggle to get through them, like The Name of All Things and now The House of Always. I can only hope that the series ends on a high note for me, but I am not sure if that will be the case for me at this point. 


Book Review : The House of Always - Blogging with Dragons

Posted September 14, 2021 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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