In the Lion's Mouth - Michael Flynn Spoiler – sort of – alert: I’m going to assume that anyone who’s made it to this book has read the first two, The January Dancer and Up Jim River, and I’m not going to refrain from spoiling those two (if necessary). I do, however, promise to refrain from spoiling the current volume.

If nothing else, Flynn’s literary ambitions are epic. In The January Dancer, Méarana the Harper (aka Lucia Thompson) created a song cycle (á la the Celtic bards) around the scarred man’s (aka the Fudir, Donovan, etc.) tale, and the book was divided among the various themes she played for the characters. That conceit was abandoned in Up Jim River to follow the here-and-now actions of the harper and the scarred man as they sought the whereabouts of Bridget ban, Hound of the Ardry and Méarana’s oft-absent mother.

In the Lion’s Mouth returns to the format of telling the story through flashbacks but models itself on Homer’s Iliad, as the first page makes abundantly clear:

Sing, O harper, the anger of Donovan buigh,
That graced us all with boundless grief,
And left brave men a prey to dogs and kites
As we foresaw upon that fateful day
When Donovan buigh and Those of Name
First fell out.

When his wrath at first arose ‘twas I he fixed it on.
Oh, yes. ‘Twas I who hauled him from his happiness
Off those same Jehovan streets where once he walked,
And had he not his eye upon more distant joys affixed,
We’d twain lie dead in those same gutters, gutted
By each other’s skills. But he foreknew, and so forbore to fight
And did submit him to my plea. But know this now, O harper.

It was to thee that he was bound when I untimely snatched him up.
Attend my tale and learn
Why once great cities burn.

There is even a Helen of Troy (Kelly Stapellaufer) whose abduction by Paris (Epri Gunjinshow) from Menelaos (Manlius Metataxis) is the proximate cause of the conflict, and gods (Those of Name) who interfere to save their favorites. And the arranged duel between those two for her hand and an end to the war end up just as Homer’s original.*

Civil war has smoldered for twenty years among the Shadows who serve Those of Name, and now threatens to break out into open war as the baroque code of honor heretofore constraining them from excessively harming the “sheep” and the “boots” breaks down, and Those of Name take the field to support one side or another.

Up Jim River ended when Ravn Olafsdottr, a Confederal Shadow, kidnapped Donovan, who was attempting to reconnect with both Bridget ban and Méarana, and took him back to the Confederation to become a pawn in the civil war. (Why Donovan is so crucial to the rebels’ plans is something I’ll leave to be discovered by readers of the book.) Subsequently, Ravn sneaks back to Dangchao Waypoint to tell the Hound and her daughter what’s befallen Donovan, and to set things up for the fourth book in the series (argh…and I had thought things would be resolved in this one).

I liked In the Lion’s Mouth more than Up Jim River because Flynn manages to recapture that je ne sais quoi that made The January Dancer such a fun read (and reread), and continue to recommend the series for fans of space opera, Celtic myth and Greek epic.

* Even as I write this review, the parallels with The Iliad become even more consciously apparent:

Donovan = Akhilleos
Ravn = Patroklos
Ekadrina Sèanmazy = Hektor
Jimjim Shot = Aphrodite
Dawshoo Yishohrann = Agamemnon
Oschous Dee Karnatika = Odysseus
Big Jacques & Little Jacques = Big Ajax & Little Ajax
Tina Zhi = Apollo

And I could go on, if I wanted to.