First of a dark Dickensian fantasy series from video-game designer and UK resident Campbell.
The city of Deepgate hangs suspended on chains above a bottomless abyss, partly as a tribute to Ulcis, the god of chains, and partly for protection against marauding barbarians. Church teaching instructs that Ulcis will one day lead an army to batter open the gates of heaven, closed since Ayen ejected the other gods and angels—the latter became archons, defenders of Deepgate. Ulcis, at the bottom of the abyss, claims all dead bodies and the life-force of their blood, or soul. Recently the barbarians have been severely weakened by diseases and poisons rained upon them by Deepgate’s powerful fleet of airships. Ironically, the brilliant but vengeful Poisoner Devon is dying of the very poisons he helped create. If, however, he succeeds in producing “angelwine,” an elixir brewed from blood and souls, he might achieve immortality. Church leader Presbyter Sypes allows Devon’s project to continue, despite the murders Devon must commit to make angelwine; Sypes hopes to use the elixir to cure Carnival, an insane vampire-angel who descends upon the city every Scar Night to claim the soul of another victim in order to sustain her own immortality. Carnival’s counterpart is Dill, a timid, innocent angel and last descendant of the city’s battle-archons. Dill’s tutor is the young assassin Rachel Hael. Another plot strand follows the hulking Mr. Nettle, whose daughter was one of Devon’s victims, as he attempts to reclaim Abigail’s soul and bring her back to life.
Gory and violent, underpinned with dubious logic, inventive and eye-filling, yet for all the hard work, it doesn’t really get under the skin.