Distinctive medieval fantasy from the author of various paperbacks (Belden’s Keep, not reviewed, etc.). The highly magical Great Maze at the heart of the city Labirinto reputedly has the power to remove curses, and draws to itself an astonishing array of characters who are destined to interact in fascinating ways. Anna Forsetti of Venice once crafted beautiful masks that talk, but now can—t work for the curse of thorns tearing at her womb; joining Anna on her quest will be her bespectacled daughter, Mirabella, her long-suffering patron Roberto, and the young priest Don Gianlucca, with whom Anna slept and got drunk. From Milan, the fencing master Rinaldo Gustiano seeks redress from his lover, the whore Simonetta Morello, who, forced to kill a violent, abusive client, steals Rinaldo’s sword, horse, and clothes. Fabrizio is an aspiring actor with a stutter. Erminia, a Siren disguised as a goatherd (she communicates by magically creating visual images), hopes to outwit her ancient enemy, Orpheus, and win freedom for her people. Lorenzo is a failed poet-turned-clerk with a rogue, Giano, as a servant. Abused beggar and thief Zizola, in cursing her tormentors, generates a lava-creature, Zolfo, that consumes her enemies. All these folk and others will meet in the Maze and, after various adventures, gain what they deserve; in true Renaissance style the various pairs of lovers will eventually find one another. But Zizola must find a way to call back her curse lest Zolfo destroy the Maze altogether. Captivating stuff, with a kiss of the fingers, a whisper of lace, and a stiletto up the sleeve: after this, even stubborn monoglots will find themselves mumbling in Italian.