With her previous novel The Death of the Necromancer
, Wells established herself as a skilled fantasy world-builder with the ability to blend mystery and intrigue with plenty of buckle and swash. Here she departs from more familiar pseudohistorical European settings for the Celestial Empire, a land where life moves in eternal circles and the wishes of departed ancestors can have as much influence as the living on day-to-day life. Itinerant ex-priestess Maskelle was once the Voice of the Adversary, vessel to a spirit created by the Ancestors and given the task of punishing injustice and evil. When a false message from an interfering evil spirit led her to commit murder, Maskelle left the faith, only to return now, years later, answering the summons of the Celestial One. Someone--or something--has corrupted the great Wheel of the Infinite, distorting the sacred patterns which must be faithfully recreated at the end of each year to ensure the continual existence of the world. The only way to repair the pattern is to find the being responsible for disturbing it, and so the Adversary's Voice is needed once again, despite the past. Assisted by the swordsman Rian, a lordless bodyguard from distant Sitane, Maskelle uncovers an intricate plot whose roots were set into motion long ago--a plot responsible for the murder which forced her to leave the faith. Engaging characters and a convincing setting make this novel of ancient schemes and twisted magic an excellent and memorable read. --Charlene Brusso
From Publishers Weekly
Maskelle, the Voice of the Adversary, speaks for the power the Ancestors created to destroy evil. Since a false vision years ago, she has wandered in exile, but now the Celestial One, head of the Koshan Order of priests, has called her back to the capital city of Duvalpore. The yearly Rite of the Wheel of the Infinite, upon which the survival of the world depends, has been interrupted. An inexplicable black storm has appeared on the face of the Wheel, and if it is not removed before the Rite is completed the world could be utterly changed. With the help of an attractive foreign swordsman named Rian and a troupe of actors, Maskelle must lead the battle against the storm and the strange insurgents from another world who sent it. Maskelle and her allies face murderous water spirits, possessed corpses and cursed puppetsAand then the evil forces get to Duvalpore, and the real trouble begins. Murdered priests, magical assassins and the court favorite Lady Marada all add to the growing mystery; meanwhile, the Adversary, the source of Maskelle's power, seems strangely unreliable. Fast-paced, witty and inventive, Well's latest fantasy (after The Death of the Necromancer) is not only about saving the world; it is also about saving Maskelle from self-doubt and isolation. The vividly imagined Celestial Empire's peril is made all the more dramatic by the characters' sarcastic, reasonable conversations, and by their very human responses to inhuman dangers; there is real reading pleasure here. (June)
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