THE LIAR CHARMS
“They will tell you that in due time, Remy. But I cannot emphasize this strongly enough: it is not to hurt you. In fact it’s quite the opposite.
But here’s what you should know. You will each leave with one of them and you have a say in who that man is.”
The Liar Charms by Lorain O’Neil is an urban thriller with just the slightest touch of paranormal abilities woven throughout. While the story itself is quite short, Charms progresses at breakneck speed to quite an abrupt ending. I had no idea where the story was going when it opened with a possible kidnapping for sexual slavery (which in all honesty, almost caused me to duck right out). The protagonist, Remy, hasn’t been abducted for sexual slavery but the servitude expected from her is no less consuming and only slightly less repugnant. She and the other women in her cohort possess an innate ability to detect deception and are being auctioned to the highest bidders to exploit their talents. These bidders, Trackers as they’re called, are desperate for the insights a Charm will bring to the cutthroat negotiations in their boardrooms.
The ability to detect lies is an accident of genetics manifesting itself in the female children of one particular family, the Pakkens. When the talent was identified, the Pakken patriarchs bred an empire and sold the fruits of their, ahem, “labors” to titans of industry. By regulating the supply of Charms, Pakken has built a highly specialized and increasingly rare economy of supply and demand. When the number of potential mothers for future Charms suddenly drops below unsustainable numbers, Trackers, both recognized and rogue, will stop at nothing to preserve their chance to secure their fortunes until the next auction…twelve years in the future.
Recognized and approved Trackers are bound by a set of Pakken enforced rules which ensure the welfare of the Charms they have purchased. All Charms are compensated for their indenture with monies set aside for their use when their usefulness has dried up…usually after ten years. Much like beauty, a Charm’s talents don’t last forever. The promise of lifelong financial stability and comfort is the tool Pakken uses to ensure compliance and enduring silence from the women whose lives are suddenly upended through abduction and auction. Ten years of cooperation with to the man who owns your talent seems like a small price to pay for some. Charms like Remy feel otherwise.
“…break the bond, eliminate the ability of the Charm to read a Liar, and the Charm has no value.”
I have few complaints about The Liar Charms. The story moves quickly, the stakes are high, and the resolution is satisfactory. And however slight, the genetically curated paranormal talents of the Charms do qualify this as a work of fantasy. Barely. Don’t come to this book expecting broad strokes of paranormal abilities. The talents are very specific to a small sub-set of the cast and only one character uses her abilities to any demonstrable extent.
Also, however smart or brave she is, Remy’s voice often rings hollow. Don’t get me wrong, the girl has backbone and chutzpah to spare. She is the cog around which the Pakken empire is built and the source of its reckoning. But I question the decision to give her such a strong vernacular voice. “Buncha voodoo naval gazing I bet. I have enough trouble with my own mind, I don’t needta be reading somebody else’s.” Rather than informing readers about Remy’s character, this choice of voice cheapened her a little. This was an unfortunate distraction from an otherwise engaging story.
Protagonist voice aside, The Liar Charms is short. I would have preferred more from the narrative. More character development, more backstory. I read Charms on my kindle and was very surprised when the story ended at 70% completion or 202 of 288 pages. The rest of the book was filled with the beginning chapters of thirteen (if my count is correct, possibly 12 or 14?) other stories. I did not read the bonus chapters.
All in all, I enjoyed The Liar Charms and have no regrets about reading it. Still, I am sad to say this one is a cut for me.