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The Tally Master Paperback – May 26, 2017
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In the land far away where people are scratching out an existence from farming and fishing, the slightest help from magic can make all the difference. Some, like Kieran, the daughter of Engris, are healers. Others develop their gifts and become mages. But there is a cost: excessive use of magic, over time or in a moment of crisis, can rip the gift from the grounding places in the body. When that happens, the unfortunate has developed a progressive degenerative disease, with physical and emotional consequences: they will become a troll. It is always fatal, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. And, as it progresses, the afflicted become more ruled by anger, and are no longer safe to live in a human community.
As a result, newly-infected trolls flee human communities. Some die in the wilderness. Others find refuge in troll communities. The women collect around ice queens; the men, around war lords. And they are at conflict with each other, and no peace is possible.
Gael is a former mage, now managing the flow of metal in the castle belonging to Carbraes. When he took the job, there was only the most cursory supervision of how much copper and tim were brought in, and the production of bronze weapons and tools was spasmodic. By organizing and tracking, he has made the operation much more efficient, and earned the respect of Carbraes, and most of his peers as well. But then, materials start to vanish.
I can't get into some of the relationships without massive spoilers, but I have to make this point VERY clear: this is NOT a castle where you want to apply for a job if there is an alternative. Although survival is not assured, somehow, certain individuals seek their own advancement at the expense of others. I have worked in an office situation like that; I THINK it is more characteristic of a place with lots of resources, and few legitimate channels to demonstrate proficiency. In that set up, some people turn to dominance games, and undercut the work of others, almost as a hobby. Usually, I think, there is no time for that sort of rivalry when survival of the company/institution is on the line. In those cases, a wise boss sees resources being wasted, and stops it.
Perhaps my theory is mistaken. Maybe, when trolls are involved, there is no good outcome.
At any rate, know that this is an incredibly toxic environment.
Delightfully so, Ney-Grimm includes an appendix describing in detail the storage methods used in the castle. I LOVE this techno-stuff; it demonstrates that all brilliance didn't just appear following Thomas Edison.
Do you expect lessons on how to live your life from a troll? You wouldn't think so, would you? But I've seen Ney-Grimm do this before: she tosses in this incredibly wise observation into a scene, and then I wander around in a daze for a month or a year. In THIS particular case, it's a basic life truth I've been advocating for around thirty years or so. I IMPLORE you to get the book, just to read the section leading up to this (but it's ALL a good book!):
"Do the next right thing, whatever it is, and you’ll do right in the end.”
Ney-Grimm, J.M.. The Tally Master (Kindle Location 1401). Wild Unicorn Books. Kindle Edition.