Lies and Prophecy

Welton University is a leading University in the wilds of Minnesota. Much like the isolated and bucolic University of Minnesota at Morris, Welton University has a rustic setting that takes full advantage of the beautiful Minnesota countryside. There, students like Kim, Robert, Liesel and Julian take courses like Historical Tarot, CM, Combat Shielding, and PK 310. That last one is Pyrokinesis 310, Effect Limits.

Magic has returned, and now magic has become a fact of life. But Kim and her friends are going to learn that there are even bigger things to worry about than their next Ceremonial Magic exam. Much bigger things. Mysterious sightings on campus, the true nature of the highly magically aspected Julian, and the coming Winter Solstice. Even if the divination expert Kim can manage to foresee the danger ahead for her and her friends, can she recognize and avert it? Or even survive it unscathed?

Lies and Prophecy is a Book View Cafe ebook from Marie Brennan. Known for her Onyx Court series and her new A Natural History of Dragons, Lies and Prophecy takes Brennan’s interest in Faerie  and magic and puts it into a setting that is fantastic and strange to the world outside of it already–a fictional college campus.

Unlike the Shadow Ops Universe of Myke Cole, Lies and Prophecy is set an undefined number of years, at least a couple of decades, past what is in this universe is called First  Manifestation–the rebirth of magic into the world. Described as an event that nearly destroyed the world, instead it has transformed society and the world into a place where the use and study of magic is as natural as studying Thermodynamics or 19th Century British Literature.

The detail of the magic in Lies and Prophecy goes far beyond a simple list of course titles. As Kim is a skilled diviner, and more broadly talented in prophecy, foretelling and trying to interpret such divinations is a major part of the novel. The title of the novel alludes to a description of divination that parallels a description of statistics–there are lies, damned lies, and Prophecy. We also get to see what ‘combat magic’ looks like in Brennan’s universe. Since the novel does not rely on and focus strongly on high action sequences, the feel of these encounters feel more like a college-level Harry Potter than the aforementioned work of Myke Cole. Given the book’s interest in, and focus on, divination, Rachel Pollack’s work is an even stronger resonance to Lies and Prophecy.

Another strong point of Lies and Prophecy is social dynamics and relationships.  Kim, Robert, Liesel and Julian are (even given Julian’s unusual nature) typical and distinctly individual college students, with a complicated and complex relationship between them. The novel starts in medias res in the school year, and we see their already established friendships quickly sketched out and then put into the crucible. In addition to the heroine, the empathic Liesel comes across as a particularly strong and interesting character. However, there isn’t a real weak link in the quartet at all, as well as the professors and others they interact and bounce off of. It is indeed true that these characters are the doorway into the story, and its difficult to imagine how the plot could credibly spin out without their social web

There are a few things in Lies and Prophecy that I think could have been better. It would have been nice to have a little more explication of just how magic has altered society. Being set in the isolated fishbowl of a rural University setting allows the book to sidestep these questions for the most part. Given how our society has rapidly evolved out of all recognition and in unexpected ways by the rise of mass communications, I would have liked some more on how First Manifestation really changed society in unexpected and unintuitive ways.

Brennan is an interesting person to meet and talk to, and her new book A Natural History of Dragons looks extremely interesting. Lies and Prophecy is a compact and representative introduction to her work and talents for those wanting to dip into her oeuvre.

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One Response to Book Review: Lies and Prophecy, Marie Brennan

  1. ganymeder says:

    Sounds like an interesting fantasy!

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