First of a new doorstopper fantasy series from the Australian author of Warlord (2006).
On Amyrantha, magic swings through thousand-year cycles; when the immortal Tide Lords reach the height of their powers, they invariably quarrel and fight and heedlessly destroy human civilization. Now, at low tide, the powerless Lords have faded into myth and only the Cabal of the Tarot remembers the danger they represent. Lord Cayal, utterly bored and despairing of eternal life, comes to Lebec and murders seven people, knowing he faces beheading as punishment. (He’ll grow a new head, of course, but it won’t contain any of Cayal’s memories.) Unfortunately for Cayal, it’s the headsman’s day off, so he’s hanged instead—and, several agonizing hours later, he’s as good as new, with his memories intact. However, the King’s Spymaster arranges for physician-historian Arkady Desean to interrogate Cayal and disprove his claims of immortality. Not wishing to torture the prisoner in case he’s a foreign citizen, Arkady encourages Cayal to tell her his story. Meanwhile, confined in a cell opposite, Warlock, a dangerously independent Crasii (of mixed human and dog ancestry, bred to serve the Tide Lords, now enslaved to humans) knows Cayal is what he claims. As Arkady probes Cayal’s past, so her own circumstances (she’s low-born, her husband is gay and will never help produce the heir demanded by the king) slowly unravel.
Convincing in broad outline, though the details don’t bear close scrutiny: a modestly gratifying yarn for readers desiring to settle in for the long haul.