My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This took me forever to get through. That's not because it's bad. It's not. It was just the wrong time to be reading about a section of society being singled out, their rights ripped away and being killed for who they are. There is no small amount of violence in this story. I'm also sort of wanting more than fantasy war stories.
So I did still rate this high and that is because it is well written. That said, it has a rough beginning. You get tossed in with about two dozen character, half of which will be dead in 20 pages. It took a while to get settled. Aydori is governed by the Wolf Pack (shifters) and the Mage-Pack, the mages (female) who a) co rule with the werewolves b) use magic to protect them and their homeland c) marry and have kids with the shifters. This is a huge plot point.
Danika is the head of the mage-pack. She and four other mages are all kidnapped by Emperor Leopold's soldiers as the Empire has designs on expansion into Aydori and the Soothsayers have predicted the Six in One will either end the empire or save it, which has been translated into 6 pregnant mages. However the sixth mage hasn't been captured
Enter Mirian Maylin, daughter of a rich banker, who smells amazing (i.e. like great magical power). She has washed out of magic school because she has a little power in all the six disciplines but couldn't master anything. She witnesses the attack on Danika and the others and tries to help. Between being captured and escaping a couple of times, Mirian meets Tomas, a young shifter around her age (18-20).
Together they head to the heart of the empire to rescue Danika and the others. Danika, Tomas and Mirian are three of the four major point of view characters. The other is Major Reiter who is a soldier of the empire just doing his job. But after exposure to the mages and shifters, who have been vilified in the empire (women sleeping with animals and shifters have been labeled abominations to be killed on sight) he starts realizing they're people, not monsters.
Through Reiter and Danika we meet the Emperor and Leopold on the surface seems charming and curious. His interest is in science and can he blend science and magic and if not that, can he destroy magic. He doesn't like that it's only in the hands of some p eople, that its stifling progress and he has a point. But we quickly realize he's a mix of Hitler and Mengele.
Mirian, Danika and the other mages are all strong women and that is wonder. It's really their story. Mostly it's Mirian's story as her magic grows (along with her relationship to Tomas). We see things in both kingdoms that need fixing, that neither are perfect (but one is worse than the other by far) For a while I thought we were going to get the tired out Mirian is the chosen one trope. Mild spoiler - that's not what is happening. it's much cooler than that. Too bad we have to wait over 300 pages to get that info.
I did like them and oddly in spite of how long this story is, the ending felt rushed and very open ended. I thought for sure it was meant to have a sequel. Huff says no. Too bad. I wouldn't mind to see them again. I liked this story but it took me time to get into.
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The Art of Black Mirror Scrying by Rosemary Ellen Guiley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was interesting. I will say it's much more about the history of scrying and the people who used it from the earliest days up through the spiritualist movement and to today. The how-to scry is much less of the point which surprised me. In fact the how to build a mirror is actually an appendix.
That said, it's well written, well researched and easy to read. I got this one from Rosemary after a nice long talk at the Mothman festival. It's worth the read if you have an interest in scrying.
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