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In the Lion's Mouth    by Michael Flynn order for
In the Lion's Mouth
by Michael Flynn
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In the Lion's Mouth is the third (following The January Dancer and Up Jim River) in Michael Flynn's entrancing Spiral Arm series. It's a space opera set in a fascinating far future universe, rich in masterfully laid out cultures and conflicts, in particular the Long Game between the Confederation of Central Worlds and the United League of the Periphery (carried out by Hounds and Shadows). Flynn gives readers rousing tales (with a strong Celtic flavor) filled with battles, heroes, and quests.

As In the Lion's Mouth opens on bardic verses ending 'Attend my tale and learn / Why once great cities burn', the scarred man, Donavan buigh, has failed to join Bridget ban, a Hound of the League, and their harper daughter Méarana at Bridget ban's keep of Clanthompson Hall as planned. Instead the keep is infiltrated by a mortal enemy, Ravn Olafsdottr, a Shadow of the Names, who has a story to share - that of how she kidnapped Donavan buigh and took him into the midst of civil war in the Lion's Mouth.

When Donovan served the Confederation, he was gifted with a second personality, that of the Fudir, a petty thief. Later, when he displeased the Names 'in some small matter of galactic domination', they 'slivered his intellect and made of him' a paraconceptic, imprinting 'each fragment with a complete, if rudimentary personality, expert in some particular facet of the Espionage Art.' This left his mind as 'a quarrelsome committee' that is highly entertaining to watch in bickering action!

Donovan wakes up aboard Olafsdottr's ship. She tells him of a struggle in the Lion's Mouth between those who support and oppose the Names (she's with the latter group) - civil war conducted 'with stealth, with intrigue, with assassination.' Of course, Donovan attempts to hijack the ship - but ultimately goes along with Olafsdottr's plan. It seems that the rebels want him for his past, when he led an earlier uprising against the Names as Geshler Padaborn - although that memory was erased when his mind was altered.

There are individual and group battles, some involving the Names themselves - and treachery abounds. Donovan is contacted by a member of the Terran Brotherhood, which will participate in the revolution for the prize of an autonomous world once more. And the episode ends with the decision to embark on a seemingly doomed mission to rescue Donovan - a 'call to Hounds'. This is a wonderful, most unusual series and I'm anxious for more.

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