Another mind-stretching fantasy from Wells (The Death of the Necromancer, 1998, etc.). Every year in Duvalpore, the Celestial Empire’s city of temples, the wizardly Voices of the Ancestors must gather to renew the Wheel of the Infinite, an image built of sand that represents the key to the shape of reality. The upcoming observance is an especially important hundred-year rite, and Maskelle—exiled for murderer and treachery—has been summoned to participate. She is the Voice of the Adversary: reviled as a demon in many lands, the Adversary is, ironically, the champion of justice. Alone of all the Ancestors, it was never once human. Maskelle travels to Duvalpore in the company of Rastim’s troupe of actors, the cursed puppet, Gisar, and bodyguard Rian. The malevolent Gisar demands to be released from the box where Maskelle has confined him, terrifying Rastim. Ominously, the Wheel’s representation is marred by a region of swirling black, and not all the magical efforts of the Voices can restore it to purity. Maskelle dreams of an eerie, inhuman city abandoned in the midst of devastation. From this and other clues, she learns that the Voices have mysterious, magical opponents who have created their own Wheel, and whose concern is to alter reality to benefit themselves. Has the Celestial Emperor himself been duped by confederates of the invaders? Worst of all, Maskelle wonders whether the Adversary itself is entirely sane.
In a field teeming with clones, retreads, and solipsistic doorstoppers, Wells dares—and, gloriously, succeeds—to be different. What more do you need?