Genre: fantasy romance with some steampunk thrown in
Cover: love it
Cult's awareness, it shall rise:
Hidden people, gather now;
Fight the demons, fight your doubt.
Gearman's strength shall then endow,
When Guild's defender casts them out.
For centuries, the mages of Mekhana have done their best to hide themselves and their powers from the rapacious needs of their so-called Patron Deity, Mekha. Greatest of their secrets is the Vortex, a Fountain hidden in the heart of the Hydraulics Guild. But even after the dissolution of Mekha and the freeing of his people, Alonnen isn't ready to reveal his guardianship to outsiders. Particularly when the remnants of Mekha's priesthood start looking for a new monstrosity to worship.
Rexei has hidden more than her powers for most of her life; she has also hidden her gender, wary of the hungers of the old priesthood. Only in the safety of the Hydraulics Guild's innermost secrets can she be herself. While the rest of her people struggle to reinvent themselves and find a deity they can trust, Rexei struggles to trust just one man, the Guardian of the Vortex. Events are moving fast, though; the priesthood is desperate for any new source of power, even a demonic one that requires certain sacrifices to access.
Another Jean Johnson book, what can I tell you that I haven’t written a dozen times before? I love her books, her writing style, the amazing world she has created in this series. The many different lands and cultures, where gods and goddesses are very real, and made powerful by the faith of their worshippers.
Prophets from a long time ago have foretold a series of events, and these events are happening now. The third verse is about Mekhana. Their Patron Deity was a false god, kept alive with machinery and stealing magic and life force from mages. At the convocation of the Gods, he was slain for good, and Mekhana is freed of him. As being a mage would get you captured and killed, the Mekhanan people had to develop their technology to do what other counties do with magic. The Guilds have grown strong and powerful to oppose the brutal priesthood. The priests are a bad bunch of men, preying on women and mages and doing whatever they please in the name of Mekha. But now their source of power has vanished and if they want to stay in power, they will need a new Deity fast. A foreign mage tells them how to bind a powerful demon instead, and using his power as their own.
A young woman named Rexei is working under cover in the main temple, examining a complaint from the servers guild about priests abusing the servers. When she overhears the foreign mage tell the local priests about summoning demons when suddenly all the signs of Mekha disappear from the temple walls and the priests’ robes, she knows he will have to be stopped. The priests quickly release their mage prisoners into the winter cold, trying to prevent a riot from the citizens they have abused for so long. The servers are thrown out of the temple as well. And so Rexei finds herself stemming the tide of a riot, and getting hauled away by the militia lieutenant to a place she did not know existed. There is a secret mage guild, and what she knows has to be shared with all the other countries and their Guardians. This demon summoning will have to be stopped, or they will all be overrun by demons from the Netherhells.
Rexei has been living on her own since she was 11, when her family was raided by the priests, and her mother was raped and taken prisoner. The priests breed their female prisoners to create more mages to feed their God, and the male mages who so choose, will join their ranks. Joining guild after guild as an apprentice, Rexei has managed to stay hidden for all those years, dreaming of a better time and a good Deity to lead her people. She has gathered a lot of knowledge over the years, learning all different kinds of trades and jobs and skills, staying where she was safe, fleeing when she was about to be discovered as a mage, or as a female, or if a priest shown attention to her.
But now, with her country thrown into a civilian war, with the militia and the priests battling for power, she needs to take her stand, and show her fellow mages and the various Guild Masters her vision of the future. A future based on the might and the structure of the various Guilds, with a benevolent Goddess named Guildra, and a new country name Guildara. They will have to act fast, before the priests manage to create a new God, keeping themselves in power. And Rexei will have to learn to trust the Mages Guild Master, and perhaps even find love in his arms.
But the priests are not happy that Rexei double crossed them, and they are after revenge, meaning to use her as a demon sacrifice...
I loved the book a lot, Rexei is one resilient young woman who has managed to stay out of harms way for so many years. Scared of getting close to someone, concerned about the rest of her family, her father and her half brothers. Always on the run. She is very capable of taking care of herself, but now there is no place left to hide, with everyone knowing who she is. With the mages hiding place overrun with the freed mages, she will have to share the rooms with the Master himself, and even his bed in this cold winter time. So when Alonnen discovers Rexei is no boy but a woman, which was fun. He is very gentle in getting her to trust him, and Rexei finds himself attracted to him, for the first time. She knows all about what happens between men and women, having been treated as a boy for all those years, but she is still a virgin. And seeing Alonnen naked has made her curious, as he doesn’t immediately try to jump her bones.
Alonnen is not only the mage Guild Master, he is also the Guardian of the Vortex, a source of magical power that has been kept hidden from their mad God. He is not trained like the mages or Guardians in the other countries but he does his best, and he will accept help when offered from the other Guardians. Rexei has to tell her story to them as well, and even when witnessing all those strange new things, she keeps her head cool.
Alonnen really is kind of nerdy, certainly not a gorgeous alpha male, and I enjoyed that aspect a lot too.
I really liked this mix of magic and technique; I totally see motorcycles and cars drive around there in a kind of medieval setting. It is fun, and very well written and plotted out. I think you can read this book as a stand alone but I really do not recommend that. Please start with book 1 to get a feeling for the world building and everything that has happened before. And if you can, you really should start with the Sons of Destiny series first.
The only thing I really did not like in this book, are the love scenes. At the end of this book, Rexei is still technically a virgin, so I think you can get my hint. I mostly skipped and skimmed them. Though the use of technical metaphors was fun and certainly original.
© 2014 Reviews by Aurian