Volsky’s new Victorian fantasy takes place in the same world as The White Tribunal (1997) but otherwise is unconnected. In Low Hetz, Mad King Miltzin’s lowborn sorcerer, Nevenskoi, has discovered a green-flamed entity composed of sentient fire. To the sorcerer, Masterfire represents a possibly decisive weapon against the brutal, oppressive, and dangerously expansionist Grewzian Imperium. But Miltzin, oblivious to the peril, refuses to sell the secret or allow Nevenskoi to disseminate it; instead, he decrees the Grand Ellipse, a crazy race through all the civilized countries of the world, by any available means of transport, the winner to be showered with gifts and accolades. Disgusted, Nevenskoi allows word of his discovery to leak out. The government of Vonahr, anticipating a Grewzian attack forthwith, grasps that the winner—especially a female winner—of the Grand Ellipse will be ideally placed to bend the amorous Miltzin’s ear, and so decides to sponsor a contestant: anthropologist Luzelle Devaire, independent, intelligent, and utterly determined to win. Among the other contestants will be Luzelle’s ex, the irritating aristocrat Girays v’Alisante, and Overcommander Karsler Stornzof of the Grewzian army. Honest, forthright, and compassionate, Stornzof resembles not at all his wicked uncle Torvid, who will stop at nothing to sabotage Stornzof’s rivals. All this, and the race hasn’t even begun yet.
Brimming with action, repartee, intrigue, comedy, magic, and irony, with impressively well-rounded characters and a dash of feminism: a spine-tingling, heartwarming delight.