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Sebastian (Family of Lies, #1)
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Fantasy Discussions > Family of Lies: Sebastian, by Sam Argent

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Ulysses Dietz | 1608 comments Family of Lies: Sebastian
By Sam Argent
Dreamspinner Press
Four stars.

Ms. Argent takes us to a magic-filled alternative universe where people swear in a very modern way, communicate via pocket-mirrors (which feels very cellphone-skype), obsess about food and money, and seem to lie to each other about everything all the time. They have hot and cold running water and kitchens with stoves, and yet fight battles only with swords, arrows, and of course, magic. It is a not entirely comfortable mash-up, in a setting that should be vaguely English (Game of Thrones), and yet feels more American (which is illogical).

Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this. We have the bickering Orwell family, with ten living children the youngest of whom is Sebastian. The children are disrespectful to their parents and fight with each other constantly, and yet the author manages to make it clear that they also care about each other. Sebastian is the special child, not because he’s gay (he’s not alone in that), but because he has some sort of a curse that requires him to hide his face behind an enchanted hooded cloak. He’s bookish and solitary and apparently has no magic. But that’s another of those lies.

In spite of everything, Prince Turren has set his cap at Sebastian, remembering a childhood fracas that forever marked Sebastian in Turren’s eyes. Sebastian resists, but it takes a long time to figure out his motives – or Prince Turren’s, for that matter – because, again, of all the lies. One never knows quite what is the truth and what is deception, and the same goes with everyone’s motives. Who’s good and who’s bad?

This carefully woven and rather deftly balanced confusion is part of this book’s charm. Behind all the lies and the poisoning and the hidden spells is a rather complicated stew of affection and resentment, of petty greed and passionate loyalty. Nobody seems to behave very nobly – least of all our hero, Sebastian –and yet somehow we know who we want to triumph. Little surprises are thrown at us from various directions, and in the end, we begin to understand what the whole mess is about.

My only gripe is the repeated reference to Sebastian as Sir Orwell – which makes no sense at all, as his parents’ aren’t high enough nobility to have honorific titles for their children, much less their youngest child, when no other child is ever called Sir or Lady. Plus, you never have “sir” with a surname. Details like this bug me…and if the author wasn’t meaning to refer to English titling protocol, she should have come up with a different system entirely.

I assume there will be more books focused on different members of the Orwell family. It will be fun, that’s for sure. Bring it on.


message 2: by Meghan (last edited Jun 17, 2018 10:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

 Meghan (mm_reads) | 31 comments Sebastian, Family of Lies

I just re-read this for the 3rd (4th?) time. It's hilarious! And really good fantasy. The characters are charming and unique. I'm not sure I'd want a book for every family member, but definitely more on the crazy family plots and intrigue.

I disagree about the setting being sort of Game of Thrones. My thought was more like Erroll Flynn's Robin Hood.

I listened to the audiobook too. The narrator chose some Cary Grant-type accents. I wouldn't recommend it for a first time introduction to the story. It got better towards the middle.


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