An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors was a delightful surprise of a book, with unique/excellent worldbuilding, fun characters, great wordsmithing, and a solid mystery of a plot. A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery has all three once again, although we mostly lose the mystery of the of first book and get a bunch of politics instead. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still great, it just took me a bit to get into the tonal shift.
Worldbuildingwise, we mostly only saw deadly shadows and mirror walkers in the first book, but this time around, we really get an expansion into all the different forms of sorcery in this world–along with an actual scientific look into how it works and how it can be abused. That’s something that I really prefer in books–I like being able to understand how the magic works or, failing that, have the feeling that the characters at least do–and LoSaS (it’s such a long title) delivers that in spades.
A sizable minority had argued for the bestial shapeshifting abilities of the Seelenjäger, but Jean-Claude had always picked Goldentongue sorcery, the ability to craft illusions so convincing that they could even upend nature for a time.
Young Fenice, fledglings as they were called, received a vitera from their parents soon after they came into their feathers. This symbiotic creature passed a copy of its progenitor’s memories and personality to its recipient, an injection of the skills and knowledge of all the lifetimes that had gone before it. This combined with their formidable physical prowess made them a danger in every arena of life. Even the young ones were as strong as an ox, and they could sheath themselves in close-fitting feathers that were lighter than thistledown yet stronger than the best alchemical steel.
Essentially immortals that can pass on their memories and personality to their children (even not by blood).
It’s pretty cool!
Characterwise, Isabella and Jean-Claude are of course still wonderful, but the expanded cast is great as well. Seeing Marie embrace the absolute strangeness of years and years of having everything stripped away from her is great.
Marie slowly tilted her head to one side, like a great snowy owl observing a mouse. “Do you really think women live in a different world from men, a world without violence, pain, deceit, blood, and treachery? I was made a bloodhollow at age thirteen out of pure spite. I spent the next twelve years in living death, a tool of oppression against my heart’s dear friend, the sister of my soul.”
Lael and the entire plot surrounding the clayborn/unpowered rising up is great–if the idea that he’d be the obvious villain wasn’t overmuch a surprise.
Bitterlich, as bodyguard, love interest, and look into the an entirely different custom and magic system? (Seelenjäger) Awesome.
Bitterlich stared into some memory. “Seelenjäger custom demands we pick animals with a great deal of fight in them. The more of a fight they put up, the stronger the spirit. The whole point of the wild hunt is to get the beast to express itself to the fullest.” “You turned into a mouse,” Marie said. “It was a very lively mouse,” Bitterlich said.
Wordsmithingwise… mane Craddock can write:
From the open door lurched a horror. It had the shape of a man, if that man had been dipped head to heels in fresh-spilt blood. He was a Sanguinaire sorcerer in the midst of a horrible derangement of his powers. His whole body glistened crimson, and his scarlet shadow flailed about his feet like a maddened kraken. Carmine tendrils slithered across the floor, climbed the walls, and raced across the ceiling. One of them touched the fleeing man’s shadow, and he toppled as if he’d tripped over a physical thing.
There’s a bit more of the gross/body horror type bites this time around, but not so much that I’d actually push this book all the way into horror. It’s still well in fantasy, just a bit more gruesome in this particular aspect.
Overall, well worth it. On to the third! I’m excited!