The authors have devised a fascinating setting based on medieval Italian, Spanish and Portuguese models for a novel of love and power -- both political and sorcerous. This is one of the few genre books I've seen in which an effort is made to take religion into account as a social force, though, even here, it's watered down. The story spans centuries and centers on the limner Sario Grijalva, whose love for the arts he has mastered is corrupted by his egotism. Grijalva's ruthless use of sorcery can, however, be thwarted by chance events, and this novel thus avoids the pitfall of the unbelievably powerful (and dull) character. Many stories -- love stories, Machiavellian thrillers, coming-of-age stories and stories of magic -- are tightly wound together in this suspenseful, enthralling one-volume trilogy (yes! you get the whole story in one book!); the painterly focus is unusual and interesting, too.
From Publishers Weekly
The three Musketeers they're not, but judging by their finished product, the three authors who have collaborated on this hefty historical fantasy comprise a competent team. In exploring the relationships among art, magic and morality, Rawn (The Ruins of Ambrai), Roberson (the Cheysuli series) and Elliot (the Jaran series) have tried to create a novel that is seamless yet preserves their individual literary personalities. The narrative covers three generations in the mythical history of Tira Virte; each generation's story seems the work primarily of one of the three authors. For centuries, Tira Virte's do'Verrada Dukes have been manipulated by the gifted Grijalva family. Selected Grijalva women become First Mistresses, while male Grijalva artist-magicians, the sterile Limners, can direct human lives by incorporating their own vital juices into their pigments, a practice that causes them to die young and in agony. Unifying the book is the Machiavellian Limner Sario Grijalva, who achieves unnaturally long life by successively murdering 16 men and taking over their bodies. The novel begins with "Chieva do'Sangua," apparently by Rawn, which competently depicts Sario's daring youth, his domination of Tira Virte as Lord Limner and his complex desire for his equally talented artist-cousin Saavedra. This introduces the major theme of women whose biological imperatives conflict with the demands of their talents. Foiled by Saavedra's love for the handsome Duke Alejandro, Sario magically imprisons Saavedra in a ravishing portrait. "Chieva do'Sihirro," which displays Roberson's hand, is more pedestrian in concept, detailing Sario's incognito political engineering 300 years hence. Finally, the colorful "Chieva do'Orro" tidies up Tira Virte a generation later, bloodlessly establishing a constitutional government, releasing Saavedra from her enchantment and punishing Sario's villainy with a unique revenge that opens a door to shared-universe sequels. Perhaps Sario's last words here best sum up this long and involved experimental saga: "remember patience." Authors tour.
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