Start of a new fantasy trilogy—an elaborate vampire variant—from the author of the Coldfire trilogy (Crown of Shadows, 1995, etc.).
At the court of King Danton Aurelius, Magisters (immortal sorcerers) have gathered to examine Prince Andovan and discuss his debilitating ailment. Cynical southern Magister Colivar confirms that Andovan has the incurable “Wasting.” What the Magisters know, and what nobody else must ever learn, is that the Wasting is caused by the Magisters themselves, who drain their “consorts” of life-essence in order to power their magic. When the consort dies, the Magister simply fastens on another victim. Meanwhile, ill-used, red-headed peasant girl Kamala, who has powerful sorcery (but is reckoned a witch, since she has no consort) demands that reclusive Magister Ethanus train her to become a Magister. Ethanus carefully explains that women cannot ever become Magisters due to some constitutional weakness. Kamala persists nonetheless and—no surprise—becomes the first female Magister. With her vast power but poor control, she needs to pose as a mere witch in order to learn. Colivar, meanwhile, perceives that the cause of Andovan’s Wasting is an unknown female with magisterial powers. Andovan, determined to learn the truth, plots with Colivar to fake his suicide. Royal Magister Ramirus and Danton are fooled by Andovan’s fatal plummet from the rooftops; furious, Danton dismisses Ramirus and hires the ill-favored and sinister Kostas to replace him. Kamala, when molested by a Magister, kills her antagonist—thus becoming a target for other Magisters to hunt down and slay. Among other complications, the long-suppressed conflict between the warrior-heroes of old and their adversaries, the demons, seems about to burst into flame.
Well-fashioned and often absorbing, if hampered by a dearth of sympathetic characters. A good start to the trilogy.