First off: WAHHH! There is no sequel to this exceptionally fine book! (at least so far). This is a wonderful story, it hooked me right away and I couldn’t put it down.
The novel tells about the insane emperor Leopald of the Kersentian Empire hell bent on swallowing all the small nations around him. He has the power and the army, and he has science on his side. Science that has developed guns that fire multiple rounds, air ships, even electricity and gas works. Nothing is going to stop his expansion.
He especially wants to overcome the small province of Aydori where magic holds sway. The mages born here are ruled and guarded by the Hunt Pack. They are beings that can go from human to wolf in a twinkling of a paw. There is also the Mage Pack who control Air, Earth, Fire, Metals, Healing and Water. Other non-Pack members have touches of mage ability, but nothing on the level of the Pack, especially their Alphas.
The emperor justifies his expansion into Aydori on an insane Soothsayer’s prophesy about Five powerful Mages and the Six in one and one in Six. The prophecy claims: “When wild and mage together come, one in six or six in one. Empires rise or Empires fall, the unborn child begins it all.” The emperor focuses all his efforts in catching the Five Pack Mages, who all female and pregnant.
No one knows who the Sixth mage is…but she better be found and dragged to Karis, the capital, so the emperor can experiment and torture them all in hopes it will strengthen his sovereignty.
Literally a day before the emperor’s attack of Aydori, the citizens get word of it and all make for a province beyond their border where they can receive protection.
In the chaos, Mirian Maylin the daughter of a banker escapes from being taken prisoner by the emperor’s troops as she and her family are almost the last to leave the province. Mirian is the focus of this story. She has some mage craft, but didn’t score high enough to further her studies. She is the eligible daughter of a highly respected family.
Captain Reiter has been sent to Aydori to take the Five Mages to Karis. Since they were all in the last coaches leaving, the pregnant mage pack are easily captured. He sends them off bound by ancient magic the emperor has found that nullifies their abilities. He then goes off to find the mysterious Sixth Mage.
Mirian, on the run, has a ton of adventures, one of which is running into one of the Pack members, Tomas, who joins up with her. They decide they must rescue the Five Mages from the sick nasty clutches of the emperor and so follow the prisoners to Karis. The characters they meet along the way are exceptionally well-done and all discover that long-held beliefs are crumbling against the walls of reality. Mirian and Tomas are intelligent, clever and grow with every experience on their arduous journey to save their mages.
The conclusion, involving the prison-bound Mages and especially the emperor’s comeuppance is terrific. This is just a meaty, engrossing fantasy. There’s plenty of eccentricities and Huff’s superb writing and world-building to hoist this way above the norm. ~~ Sue Martin
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