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Symphony of Ruin
A Labyrinth of Souls novel
by Christina Lay
Shadowspinners Press, $11.99, 189 pages
Published: July 2017

Remy, a former street urchin, is the apprentice of Marek the Alchemist, presiding over the house in his master’s absence as Marek travels to gather needful supplies. The dwelling may be in an unsavory part of town, but the rents are low, and Marek is respected enough - or feared enough - that thieves give the place wide berth.  The alchemical supplies may be running low, but the larder is well stocked, so Remy has invited Glyn, one of his old mates, over to enjoy some of the good liquor the old alchemist keeps for his private use. 

Their inebriated conversation is touched by the power that Remy can occasionally wield, as a deck of cards indicate the beginning of a strange adventure. That flare of magic in turn attracts other, older power-wielders, and so the adventure begins.

Death is stalking the alleyways of the old quarter, and those who fall prey seemed to die of fear: face and fingers frozen in a rictus of terror. Remy wants to stop the killings for friendship’s sake, as too many of the slain are his former companions. Other personages, who live high on the hill where the castle and the cathedral stand, hire him to that end for less altruistic reasons.  But whether the motivation is wealth or reputation or power or peace, the result is the same: Remy must descend into the labyrinth below the chapel, a place of death and monsters and hidden treasure, to lay a revenant to rest. Remy is savvy enough to realize the quest is a test of sorts, but it is only when he sounds the depths that he is able to perceive what he is being called upon to save, or claim, or destroy. Having made that choice for himself, he is able to see how others would choose differently; and since the labyrinth is open to anyone who dares descend, Remy, in a way, becomes a Guardian; even if no one else recognizes that truth.

Told with humor and compassion, with wonderful world-building and vivid descriptions of terrors and confrontations, this is a coming of age story that has little to do with age and everything to do with choices.

The closest comparison I can think of, even though they are very different stories, is Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book; if you loved that, you should probably make this your next foray.  ~~ Chris Wozney

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