Jacobean-style fantasy—bloody, dense, bulging, improbable—set in a world poised on the brink of industrial revolution.
In the slums of the city Murne in the kingdom of Antyre, the lovers Janus and Miranda hustle to survive—until Kritos, the Earl of Last’s heir, shows up to retrieve Janus, the earl’s bastard son. After a brutal clash, Kritos seizes Janus leaving Miranda battered and seething. She appeals to the supposedly dead god of love and vengeance, Black-Winged Ani—and the god fills her with rage and power. To search for Janus, Miranda becomes the youth Maledicte. She—now he—encounters Baron Vornatti, King Aris’ brother-in-law and the Earl’s deadly rival. Lecherous, crippled old Vornatti promises to teach Maledicte courtly skills and how to stalk Last. In return, Maledicte allows Vornatti to abuse him, as the baron also abuses his other servant, faithful Gilly. Roughening his voice with poison, Maledicte learns swordplay and espionage. Finally, when Last presents Janus to the king, Maledicte can barely restrain Ani’s command to run Last through on the spot; instead, Maledicte toys with, then murders, Kritos. Finally, he kills Vornatti and inherits his wealth, but meanwhile the reunion with Janus proceeds less smoothly. Maledicte, even if he turns back into a woman, has no pedigree and cannot marry Janus. King Aris, without an heir himself, encourages Janus to find a suitable wife. Maledicte, aghast, maddened by Ani’s compulsion to dispatch Last, learns that vengeance must be postponed yet again: Janus now has designs upon the throne.
A strong-willed debut whose painstakingly developed characters and tortuous plots exert an undeniably intense, if grim, fascination.