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In the Lion's Mouth
by Michael Flynn
Tor Books, $25.99, 299pp
Release Date: January 17, 2012

When's the last time you were smitten with a writer's word-smithing? Which authors have the power to transport you? Patricia McKillip? Emma Bull? Steven Brust? Lois McMaster Bujold? Well, if you haven't already discovered Michael Flynn, get ready to add him to that list. Flynn is amazing. I haven't gotten this drunk on sheer words since I read Bone Dance. And the story is dam' good - no lack of action here.

Donovan, the scarred man, was on his way home - sort of - at least, he has a daughter he rather wants to see again, and maybe, just maybe, his daughter's mother won't kill him on sight. Unhappily, he got abstracted by Ravn Olafsdottr, a Shadow agent, under orders to bring Donovan to a planet - not his destination - to assist in a little matter of rebellion and war.

Donovan, like Odysseus before him, is a man of many tricks. He is also, thanks to the Confederacy, a man literally of many minds. So he is remarkably resourceful - but how can you trust a man with a personality like a dodecahedron?

Ravn manages to survive Donovan's displeasure - one assassin can recognize another's repertoire - and has come to tell the women Donovan loves why Donovan himself never arrived. She spins out a tale of exceptional violence, triple-treacheries, and the strange loyalties that turn wars’ outcome. Embedded in her narrative is a challenge, one which Bridget ban, a Hound with the authority to summon and command other Hounds, must decide how to answer. But quietly listening all the while and drawing her own conclusions; is Mearana, Donovan's daughter, and she has a mind very much her own.

In the Lion's Mouth is a sequel to The January Dancer and Up Jim River, and it is, of course, best to read them in order. However, it is possible to start a series midway and made very good going; so, do as you will. This is space opera at its best: it ranges across galaxies; it involves empires, political intrigue, thwarted romance, and heroic deeds. In addition, Flynn, whose name suggests Irish ancestry, uses his bardic talent to emulate Homer in some passages, to ravish your soul in others, and to play, most exquisitely, the polyglot game.

Characters frequently use languages as a kind of warfare or to test each other (when they aren't testing each other in more lethal ways). John M. Ford would have delighted in this. In fact, if you wish Ford had written sequels to Growing Up Weightless, you might consider this series the great-great, ever so great descendant, the distant future of that cryptic storyline. With more Gaelic. Flynn has the good grace to be prolific, with eleven-plus books published through Tor, so there is much, much more to enjoy of his imagination and craft. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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