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Holly Lisle – Talyn

March 14, 2008

32. Talyn by Holly Lisle (2005)
A Novel of the Korre, Book 1

Read my review of the sequel, Hawkspar

Length: 576 pages

Genre: Fantasy

Started: 11 March 2008
Finished: 14 March 2008

Summary: Talyn is a Shielder, a soldier dedicated to protecting her people against magical attacks. The Tonks have been at war with the Eastils for over three hundred years, with each side taking heavy losses, but still holding fast to a code of honor that has become a way of life as well as a way of war. When an unwelcome peace is forced upon them by outsiders, Talyn and her people find their way of life dissolving; a military no longer needed, her formerly fiercely nationalistic society succumbing to outside influence. Talyn in particular finds herself drawn to one of the peacekeepers, despite knowing that her family will never accept him, and knowing deep down that she can never truly trust him. When the peacekeepers turn out to be worse than the war, Talyn must join with her former enemies to save her people, her way of life… and herself.

Review: Wow. I’d never heard of this author before (I received this book through LibraryThing’s Secret Santa program), and I realize now that I’d been missing out. Glancing through some of the other reviews, I figured it was going to be pretty good, but I was not expecting anything like this book. Absorbing, compelling, intensely dark yet not without humor and hope, complex, brutally honest, imaginative, and well-written. It’s definitely not like most fantasy I’ve read – it’s a well-structured military fantasy stand-alone; dense, certainly, but complex and complete. It also doesn’t contain even the faintest whiff of the pigboy parable, which always makes for a nice change. Talyn is a real, recognizeable person – a bit stronger, tougher, and more honorable than most people out there, but with enough flaws, quirks, and weaknesses that she still feels human, which makes her voice ring out all the clearer. The writing is good if not particularly stand-out in most parts; it does a good job of conveying a wide variety of both actions and emotions without getting overwrought. The only minor quibbles I can find with this book are that it’s a little hard to get into right away – the beginning seems more concerned with setting the scene than with really introducing Talyn, which keeps the reader at arm’s distance for a while. I also wish it had been broken up into parts (I could imagine them being called War, Peace, Resistance, or something like that) – there’s enough to the story, and the plot takes enough major turns, that part of me wanted just a little more delineation. That’s pretty minor, though – this book is good enough to suck you into the story and not let you out again until the end, chapter breaks or no. 5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Not your typical slightly fluffy swords-and-sorcery fantasy novel, and it comes out the better for it. Holly Lisle definitely goes on my list of authors to look out for in the future. Highly recommended.

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First Line: Pada and I stepped out of the Shields Building at twenty past the Dog on the last day of Madrigas to find shreds of the moon peering out from behind scattered clouds offering the only light on the dock.


  • p. 22: “And he was staring at the little dish of copper solder pallions and the flux and the soldering irons heating in our work fire as if he were trapped in the midst of a nest of snakes.” – soldering chip.
  • p. 63: ““Nice flex in the pastern, good solid rump, hocks and fetlocks well put together.”” – the part of the foot of a horse, cow, etc., between the fetlock and the hoof.
  • p. 123: ““And a jewel-hilted dagger – cabochon rubies and inlaid onyx in fine silver, I believe – that Aaral had you do for his mistress.”” – a precious stone of convex hemispherical or oval form, polished but not cut into facets.
  • p. 277: “Some of the piers held massive fixed gantries that supported heavy cranes.” – any of various spanning frameworks, as a bridgelike portion of certain cranes.
  • p. 398: ““You’re brevetted first sergeant of this company, Kaadnedda.”” – a commission promoting a military officer to a higher rank without increase of pay and with limited exercise of the higher rank, often granted as an honor immediately before retirement.

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