Dave Duncan – Mother Of Lies

One of my main questions after having read Mother Of Lies (2007), the second novel in the Dodec Duology by Dave Duncan, was why the story was divided into two parts. Both novels are around 400 pages so one big tome of 800 pages would have worked far better, especially because it is in reality one main story that has been cut into two. The cut moment is chosen well, although it can be said that the plot has been adapted so it would fit. It is all a matter of where to add or remove details.

Mother Of Lies continues immediately from the final events of the first novel, Children Of Chaos. I read both novels after each other so I can say there is no break. Fortunately Duncan avoids recapping earlier events and moves straight on. The plot is less complex as several threads have converged and joined together and more do so in the earlier stages of the novel. Duncan adds in two new threads in which we follow two new characters who form minor protagonists from whose viewpoint different parts of the story is told. They allow Duncan to explore and develop new material although they remain of minor importance and thus don’t compare to the main protagonists.

As the story is of a somewhat grand nature the final events in the plot take up much space. There is less space for details and light comedy as the mood becomes heavier and there is more haste as the opponents are trying to outwit each other. Duncan chooses to skip on some minor events. This has the effect that some things remain in the dark until much later. We only know what the chosen narrators are able to provide us with and by staying away from some narrators he clouds the knowledge of the reader. While this is effective in regard to the tension within the story it is not all that unpredictable. To me personally I would have liked to read about those minor events as Duncan always tried to give some credit to the supposedly bad guys.

To be honest, Duncan throws in a fair number of plot twists that do not feel that strong. This in comparison to the way he kept grounding his story and characters to make everything more believable while the setting and certain developments are fantastical. In a certain way one could say he balanced the good and the evil things and in the end he did make some choices that feel more normal than the usual perfect convergence that many fantasy novels have as a finale. To me however it felt important that everything that happened would be believable within the framework of the setting. On certain occasions I did not have that feeling and that is why I am less satisfied with how everything developed. My only thought on this is that Duncan (or his editor) stuck to much on fitting the story within a certain size of the novel and cut and changed things to make sure the two novels of the series would be balanced in pace and content. Of course it could also have been the way the plot had been planned all along and that the execution within the story is simply not that convincing.

One thing that is certainly true is that Duncan must have had a lot of fun writing this story. When reading you can feel the joy and pleasure of setting up the plot, the different characters and all the minor and greater events that drive the story. As the concept of the world and the peculiar characteristics are already fantastical, everything else is aimed at making it all work together with a cast of characters to which the reader can easily relate.

Mother Of Lies is the weaker of the two novels of the series, mainly because of the weaker plot and the choice to leave out some interesting minor events. The greater plot also constricts the plot of Mother Of Lies as everything needs to converge to conclude the plot. This is of course normal but the story is too large to give this novel some room of its own. It is wholely dependent on the first novel and that weakness would not have been there if the two novels had been combined into one big book (of a still acceptable size) where there would have been no need to balance events. Even so, Mother Of Lies contains some original developments and a number of surprising minor twists that give it enough standing of its own. Recommended.

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