A powerful amnesiac must escape her captors to search for her past.
In this fantasy, Nazafareen, “a mortal with da?va blood and the ability to shatter magic,” is being held in Nocturne, a realm of perpetual night. Her right hand is missing, and she remembers virtually nothing of her past, which is how the element-wielding da?vas like it. She’s closest with Darius of House Dessarian, who carried her through the Dominion gate after her magic-nullifying powers overloaded. The elementals keep Nazafareen hidden from the Valkirin, another clan, who want her dead. She’d prefer the truth about her past, however, to remaining an outcast among the da?vas. When a Valkirin messenger arrives from the Val Moraine holdfast, she learns that she must surrender or risk creating a war between da?va clans. Meanwhile, at Val Moraine, a fallen warrior named Culach, blind and covered in severe burns, convalesces. He’s cared for by Mina, a Dessarian hostage whom he despises. Back in Nocturne, a flying machine made from ropes and fabric crashes, delivering an emissary from the mortal realm of Samarqand. As the visitor, Javid, discusses economic backchannels with Lady Tethys, Nazafareen plans her escape via airship. Unfortunately, Culach’s father, Eirik, hopes to strike a mortal blow at House Dessarian and eliminate the “abomination” it protects. In this series opener, Ross (The Thirteenth Gate, 2017, etc.) returns to the alternate ancient Persia of her Fourth Element trilogy and offers a spoiler-free reintroduction of her characters and their intertwined backstories. The author’s excitement and clarity of vision should impress those who’ve never read her before. The narrative’s magical components never overshadow the players and their struggles (Lady Tethys tells Nazafareen, regarding her amnesia, “Some people might see it as a gift. A chance to start life anew”). And the characters newly taking shape are thrilling to behold. The chimeras, for example, are “bound together by air and thus translucent except for the blood coursing through...delicately branching veins and occasional clots of darker matter.” Layered subplots featuring Culach, Mina, and Javid provide an embarrassment of riches. The finale primes audiences to learn about the legendary Vatras, who did what other elementals can’t—control fire.
A historical fantasy that crackles with electricity.