New fantasy, the first of a duology, from the estimable Duncan (The Jaguar Knights, 2004, etc.).
In a world that may or may not be polygonal, the gods infuse their adherents with magical powers: Followers of the storm-and-battle god Weru, for instance, can shapeshift into huge, unstoppable war-beasts. Werist Stralg Hragson’s masterstroke was to force the clairvoyant, truth-sensing but defenseless seers to serve him. Having coerced the contentious Werists of Vigaelia into unity, Stralg next invaded peaceful Florengia by crossing the deadly barrier between the realms, leaving behind his sister Saltaja, dreaded worshipper of the evil death-goddess Xaran, to rule in his name. Once the Florengian city Celebre surrendered, Stralg forced Doge Piero to yield his children, Dantio, Benard, Orlando and the infant Fabia, as hostages. As the years pass, the cult of Weru, introduced into Florengia, breeds warriors who rebel against their Hragson overlords, leaving Stralg desperately needing more troops. As for the children, meanwhile: Dantio is reported dead; Benard, inspired by the goddess of crafts, becomes a talented sculptor; Orlando, a champion Werist, is fanatically loyal to the Hragsons, who don’t trust him; Fabia swears an oath to Xaran. When Doge Piero falls ill, Saltaja schemes to marry her horrid nephew Cutrath, another Werist, to Fabia and rule Celebre through her, while Benard and Orlando must be disposed of. Once the children become aware of one another’s existence, however, they rapidly develop other ideas.
Duncan’s mad plots, dark intrigues, vivid cast and lashings of magic leave many engrossing mysteries to be elucidated in volume two.