Published by CreateSpace on September 15th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk
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A VANISHING GLOW is the exciting opening to THE MYSTECH ARCANUM series, a deep and thrilling blend of steampunk and flintlock fantasy with mature themes.
It is an Age of Revolution, an Age of Industrialism. Constructs, living men who are as much brass and steel as they are flesh, man the factories and wage the wars of a ruling elite who gorge themselves on the fruits of the common man’s labor. Mystech, a brilliant fusion of magic and machine, gives rise to a new class of privileged inventors and merchants even as the country festers with wounds from decades of internal strife.
Only one man holds the promise of a brighter future: Nole Ryon, the crown prince. When his childhood friend Jason Tern answers his call for aid, the two of them set out to fight for the change their country needs in order to survive, even as shadowy foes frustrate their efforts. But soon, Jason and Nole’s idealistic mission of hope becomes a furious manhunt for a political murderer as the nation balances on the precipice of a country-wide civil war. Can they cut through the threads of intrigue to discover their true enemy before everything is lost?
Sweeping from the ancient cities at the heart of the nation to the dusty edges of the war-torn frontier, A Vanishing Glow tells a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and assassins, friends and lovers, who come together in a time of epic struggle. Here a brave officer risks everything to win back his estranged father’s respect; a brilliant young engineer attempts to atone for her sins; a war-weary commander tries to pick up the pieces of the life he lost; and a man touched by the gods struggles to prepare a nation for the coming of an ancient evil which only he can see. In the dying light of a once-prosperous society, amid twisting plots, suffering and betrayal, lost love and shattered dreams, all must fight for what they hold dear. Who will taste the fruits of victory and who will lie bloodied on the ground in the light of a vanishing glow?
The people of the federated countries are not happy with the burgeoning industrialisation and their replacement with machines or with “constructs” (people with mechanical limbs) creates a simmering tension. The leading council of the realm is barely holding on to power, while fighting amongst themselves.
A Vanishing Glow is a combination of parts one and two of the Mystech Arcanum series. The story is also told from two separate points of view – Jason and Nilya. Their paths don’t actually intersect in this book, but they are connected by some of the secondary characters and I feel they must meet sooner or later.
The two main characters couldn’t have been more different. I spent a lot of the book wanting to slap Jason. As the new Lord Tern, he spends the whole time taking impulsive risks and taking matters into his own hands, which is never a good thing. He didn’t seem to grow much throughout the story, and it was up to other characters to slap some sense into him from time to time. He really frustrated me, but the other characters around him made his story more bearable.
On the other hand, I loved Nilya! Despite plenty of obstacles being thrown in her way, she just gets on with it – a trait I appreciate in a protagonist. She has excellent mechanic skills and also happens to be holding onto a lasting unrequited love from her childhood bedfellow. Same-sex bedfellows seem to be an accepted part of this society, a situation they are expected to “grow out of” before taking a “more suitable” heterosexual partner. I found this a really interesting cultural phenomenon and I wonder if it was based on a real-world culture at all. I look forward to seeing how Nilya’s story continues.
The story itself is really quite complex – I was never quite sure what will happen next! I really enjoy Alexis Radcliff’s writing style and A Vanishing Glow makes a fantasic debut novel. There are plenty of twists and turns, and unexpected violent deaths and injuries. I also found the concept of “mystech” fascinating – a mystical force that has been concentrated into crystals so they can be used to power mechanical devices. I’m still not sure at this point whether there is actual magic involved or if there is a scientific explanation for it!
There was a tad more political plotting and wrangling than I usually like, but there was still enough action for it to be an enjoyable read. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next!