Science fiction author Morden (the Petrovitch Trilogy) makes a masterful foray into an alternate universe where, a thousand years after the fall of Rome, Europe is divided into numerous petty kingdoms and magic is a tool and a weapon. The cunning Order of hexmasters - whose enchantments create bridges, power cities, underpin commerce, and annihilate entire armies - is the ruthless power behind the throne in the German palatinate of Carinthia. When the magic abruptly stops, enemies amass armies at Carinthia's borders and mobs take over its streets. Under-librarian Frederik Thaler and illiterate huntmaster Peter Büber are both certain that the library holds the kingdom's salvation. Capricious adept Nikoleta Agana may be the last remaining hexmaster. Twelve-year-old prince Felix is thrust onto the throne after his father's death in battle. Willful, shamefully unmarried Sophia Morgenstern is determined to protect her fellow Jews from terror-fueled pogroms. An engrossing rollercoaster of a plot winds up with a solidly satisfying climax that leaves the reader craving more.
Fascinating characters whose actions, fears and ultimate fates become absorbing enough to lift the book well beyond the level of a clever concept. It achieves the drama of the best epic fantasy while taking the form apart and putting it back together, still very much alive
Morden, against a gritty, utterly convincing backdrop, anticipates every consequence and wrings out surprise after surprise . . . An enthralling read for aficionados of intelligent, impeccably rendered fantasy
Morden has a natural talent for a plot that keeps the reader guessing
A clever idea for a fantasy novel: In a mediaeval Europe where a kingdom uses magic to win every battle, not to mention run the plumbing, the maic suddenly fails. The panic this causes makes heroes and villains of ordinary folk and epic violence ensues, an interesting rumination on whether characters are born or moulded by circumstance. And the struggle to discover real technology is a heartening reminder of how well our species has done in the real world to build civilisation without so much as a hocus pocus