Start of a complex mythology-based series from the author of the astonishing far-future Golden Age trilogy (The Golden Transcendence, 2003, etc.).
Five orphans are being raised and educated in a most peculiar school. They are the only students. They don’t know their real names or true ages—they may be teenagers or much older. Discipline is strict, even brutal: They are permitted no heat, forbidden to talk during meals and locked in their rooms at night. They do, however, have strange talents. Red-headed Vanity can find secret passages in places where, perhaps, none previously existed. Narrator Amelia can see and manipulate energies in four or more dimensions. Loud, gruff Colin works magic simply by the power of will. Logical Victor controls matter using his mind. Quiet Quentin may be a warlock whose familiar, Apsu, is an animate walking-stick. The staff is equally odd: matron-like Mrs. Wren is often the worse for drink; headmaster Boggin intimidates by sheer physical presence; sinister Dr. Fell administers potions evidently intended to suppress the development of the children’s powers; horrid Mr. Glum lusts after both girls but especially Amelia. A meeting of the Board of Visitors and Governors takes place, upon which Amelia and Victor contrive to eavesdrop. The children’s origins, we soon learn, are stranger than even they have imagined.
Fascinatingly, dazzlingly, almost pointlessly erudite fantasy that trends inexorably toward science fiction; addicts will pounce.