Those who prefer epics painted in sophisticated shades of gray to ultimate battles of good and evil will relish this first volume of a trilogy, published in the U.K. in 2005.
The Perpetual Republic of Mezentia operates according to the principles of mass production; however, those principles are so calcified that innovation is not only stifled, it’s punishable by death. When weapons engineer Ziani Vaatzes is condemned for making a nonstandard mechanical doll for his daughter’s birthday, he manages to evade his jailors and escape to the small duchy of Eremia Montis. Jealous of their secrets, Mezentia is prepared to exterminate all of Eremia to prevent Vaatzes from passing on any of his knowledge. Meanwhile, Vaatzes is concocting a complex scheme that will allow him to return to his beloved wife and child. This scheme, which Vaatzes imagines as a vast machine, involves war on a massive scale and betrayals both large and small. Thousands will be destroyed in the operation of Vaatzes’s device, but he simply doesn’t care, as long as he gets to go home. After a flood of books that revolve around the fight for a throne, the destruction of evil and/or the search for a long-lost magical McGuffin, it’s refreshing and innovative to read a work whose plot is based on simple and deeply personal stakes.
Highly recommended, especially to readers tired of the usual thing.