Diplomacy of Wolves (Secret Texts 1)
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Book one of 'The Sacred Texts' is set in a world considerably more urban and urbane than traditional fantasy quest epics. Dirigible balloons ('airibles') coexist with Machiavellian plotting, Borgia-like malevolence, and deadly rivalry of great families resembling the Montagues and Capulets of Romeo and Juliet. There's magic too, forbidden but still furtively used: each clan has its secret corps of 'Wolves', black magicians who conduct cruel sacrifices and may become physically monstrous from spell backlash. Young heroine Kait is a trainee diplomat and secretly a shapeshifter--that is, accursed and marked for death if ever exposed. After a horrific clash of wizardry and assassination that almost wipes out her clan, she takes ship in search of the ancient 'Mirror of Souls' that legendarily can bring back the dead. But legends may be booby- trapped: Kait and other characters become guided by helpful spirit voices, gods with their own agenda and no love of humanity, and the Mirror's real function may be altogether different. Meanwhile, a long-dead sorcerer who opposed the gods with his own white-magic cult awaits rebirth.... The magic and its transforming side effects are exhilaratingly horrid; the novel ends with a whopping cliffhanger. Whatever next? Highly readable. --David Langford
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