Huso's debut conceives an eye-popping, crazy-sounding but utterly persuasive universe of medieval and modern technology mingled with cutting-edge science and blood-magic, of aerial battles fought between giant armor-plated zeppelins, horses with scales, fangs and claws, perpetual-motion devices powered by tortured souls, electric crossbows and hexes that can devastate entire cities.
During his eight years of college, Caliph Howl, heir to the Duchy of Stonehold's throne, acquired a knowledge of holomorphic magic—reality-altering applied mathematics powered by siphoning blood from any available source—and a lover, Sena Iilool, adept of the Shradnæ witchocracy, a trained holomorph tasked with spying on the young king. At his castle in the seething, reeking city of Isca, High King Caliph grapples with the looming disaster he's inherited: rebellious provinces and a civil war whose leader, Saergaeth Brindlestrom, has allied with Stonehold's hostile neighbors; an ancient cabal of immensely powerful, sewer-dwelling froglike aliens, the Willin Droul, whose agents seem to be everywhere; and the witchocracy itself, whose purpose is unknown. Sena, meanwhile, obsesses over the ancient tome she's acquired. Once belonging to Caliph's holomorph uncle Nathaniel, and sought by the witchocracy, the Cisrym Ta's secrets, perhaps powerful enough to unmake the universe, can only be unsealed with a spell using blood stolen from Caliph against his will. Along with the usual rookie mistakes—unwieldy plotlines that dangle or don't add up, deadly rivalries with no real raison d'être, pockets of overblown prose—Huso packs in enough multidimensional ideas for a dozen yarns, almost negligently flings aside material enough for a dozen more and drives the entire enterprise along, snapping and sparking, at a ferocious clip.
Macabre and magnificent, as enthralling as it is astonishing.