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Talyn: A Novel of Korre by Holly Lisle

Talyn: A Novel of Korre by Holly Lisle
Book Name: Talyn: A Novel of Korre
Author: Holly Lisle
Publisher(s): Tor Fantasy (US) Tor Books (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: November 28, 2006 (US) August 26, 2005 (UK)

Talyn is a novel about aftermath. It’s a story of two nations who have been at war for three hundred years, forced into an unwanted peace by a third party. It’s about prisoners of war left behind when the fighting ends. It’s about struggling to the surface and learning how to breathe again when someone you love hurts you in the most vile, unforgivable ways.

Talyn is novel that is both brilliant and disturbing, filled with darkness and layered with hope…and a damn good read besides.

Let me explain.

Lisle’s novel is set amid the beginnings of forced peace between two nations, the Confederacy of Hyre and the Eastil Republic, by a third party of Feegash Diplomats. Talyn, who narrates the first-person chapters, is bitter and feeling somewhat displaced by the peace treaty, for she has been fighting this war for as long as she can remember as a Shielder—someone who intercepts and neutralizes magical attacks.

These magical attacks come from a place called the View, a place loosely modeled on the real world—sort of a spiritual, psychic version of reality—and which is highly dangerous for any one individual to enter. The magic is intrinsic to the story, so the reader is given just enough information about the View to understand its place, allowing its appearance in the story to flow in and out naturally.

This is one of the strengths of Lisle’s storytelling. Her magic system, along with her worldbuilding, is thorough and deeply layered. She has crafted a rich environment within which to tell her story, and it becomes immediately clear to the reader that the Tonks (Confederacy) and the Eastils have much more in common than they realize—but at the same time, because the characters remain unaware of this point, Lisle manages to keep this information from coming across as contrived or too overt.

We’re able to receive this information through a skillful weaving of both first-person and third-person narrative. The third-person narrative comes from a man named Gair, who was abandoned by his own people (the Eastils) in a Tonk prison when the peace treaty was passed. Gair and Talyn develop a complex relationship that is critical to the plot—for undoubtedly, it becomes clear that the peace treaty isn’t all that it seems, and both nations are in great danger.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a key point that has turned off many a reader for this book. If you are sensitive to sexual violence, please be aware that this novel may be a trigger for you.

Lisle puts her characters through hell, unflinching in the way she shows how a relationship can turn violently abusive while also subverting the victim’s conscious will. Though much of the violence happens off-screen—leaving the reader to experience the aftermath with Talyn and learn how she copes—the sexual violence is undeniably brutal and devastating, to the point of being sickening.

I don’t believe Lisle glorifies sexual violence in any way in this book, for the characters who act this way are purely evil—there is no question about that—but at times, the reader is possibly drawn in a little too close to the one particular “villain” character. There’s a distinct lack of emotional distance for the reader, is what I’m trying to say, when some of these events occur. I also found it bothersome that the book jacket description used the term “erotic” to describe the story, when the sexual element is so outrageously far from erotic. It’s sexual violence. I doubt many people would describe such a thing that way (but to be fair to the author, it’s usually the publisher who writes jacket copy, so I can’t blame her for it).

But, back to the story. Talyn and Gair discover that they alone are safe from the subversive magic that has taken hold of both their nations, and realize that it’s up to the two of them to save their people, their families, and their friends. Diplomacy and politics take center stage as Talyn and Gair navigate the landscape of Hyre, and the bonds of honor are tested as these two are forced to work together, despite hundreds of years of enmity against each others’ people.
Honor and honesty are key themes in Talyn, motivating the main characters and many of the people around them. As a main character, Talyn is stubborn, loyal to a fault, and makes plenty of mistakes as she does what she believes is right—even when it goes against everything she has been taught to believe.

To that end, Talyn is a book that is best devoured slowly, page by page, in order to absorb the richness of the world Lisle has created. The tension of the plot builds slowly, subtly, so that the reader doesn’t realize how far the talons have sunk in until it’s too late—the intensity has grabbed hold and you’re fearful for the characters at the same time as they’re frantic and fearful for their own lives and the lives of their loved ones.

And though this is a standalone novel (there is one other novel of Korre available, but it doesn’t tie in to this novel), I, for one, hope that Lisle returns here time and time again in the future. The world is much too rich to be left alone.


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