Laika in Lisan by Maron Anrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In Laika in Lisan by Maron Anrow, the author has built a fictional world apparently inspired by North Korea. Lisan is a country with closed borders, a leader who has manipulated his people to make them worship him, and a son of the leader who is biding his time to gain the power his father enjoys.
While the accuracy of what we know about such a closed off country will always be in doubt, Anrow has created her own world where conjecture and imagination are not only allowed, but probably bring us closer to truth than any list of facts ever could. Also, the villains (both individuals and governments) of Anrow's novel aren't entirely evil and the heroes aren't without their own flaws. This alone brings a truth that can't be found in most news articles.
Lakia is a young woman who lives in the democratic country of Trea, but has always been fascinated by the neighboring country of Lisan. She is also fluent in their language, which apparently is not common among the people of Trea. When Lord Hamin, the autocratic leader of Lisan, decides to open a new university, Laika jumps at the opportunity to become a visiting scholar. Her decision forces her to leave her position as a tutor for the children of a wealthy family and to disappoint her family, especially her father who had fought in a war between the two countries and is still bitter about the experience.
At times I felt Anrow's writing lacked detail, causing the plot to move too quickly and some important scenes to lack credibility. I also thought Anrow told too much of what her characters were feeling rather than allowing her readers to discover their feelings through their actions. One area where this criticism was not true was in Lakia's relation with Rodya, a young man she encounters after she and her guides are attacked on their way to the Holy City. The relationship between Lakia and Rodya grows slowly with twists and turns that are fascinating to read.
Laika in Lisan is a story about making important decisions in a world that isn't black and white. Laika is put in positions she isn't prepared to handle and as a result is consumed by doubt. This is what makes Anrow's characters real and what makes her novel an interesting read.
Steve Lindahl – author of White Horse Regressions and Motherless Soul
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