The mage must be stopped. This is the prophetic command from Queen Siobhán given to her nephew, Orion, as she lays dying, poisoned by the Brotherhood. Orion, perhaps the most powerful warlock yet born, is but one of the keys to an ancient puzzle of magic and science, keys that must be found in a journey that will sweep from ancient, fae-ruled Ireland to the steamship protected shores of an England held together by military might and clockwork weaponry. Across the ocean, a captive fae is being tortured to reveal visions for the guardian council of the British Empire, showing a young human using magic, an act so vile it turns the stomach and blackens the heart. That young man is none other than Gavin Haveland, son of the most powerful member of the council.
Two young men from two disparate islands must come together to do the unthinkable. They must find the lost dragonstones and reunite them in order to defeat the evil Brotherhood who will stop at nothing in their efforts to summon back the dark mage who betrayed a kingdom, and unleashed the demons of hell in his attempt to rule the world. With the powers of the world arrayed against them — a world now at war — with assassins and betrayal around every corner, humans and warlocks and even the Tuatha Dé Danan, these two young princes must somehow find one another and save the world before others manage to destroy its future.
Orion is a boy who has had all that he loves taken from him by the Brotherhood of Warlocks. First his mother’s mysterious death, which caused him to be raised by a stepfather so weak and feckless he obeyed every command of the Brotherhood, and now his aunt, the queen, who lies as if dead, her life drained from her by foul poison and magic. All of his life Orion has fought for power, for the chance to rise in the ranks until he can claim what is rightfully his and challenge the dark warlock, Blaylock, who stands in his way. Each time, Blaylock finds a way to push him aside, to turn others against him, and now he’s sending Orion into exile on a fool’s quest. Orion will push himself to his limits, again and again, heedless of the cost to himself in his efforts to save his aunt and prove himself.
Gavin is the spoiled young son of the highest ranking member of the council that rules England, hated and despised by his father and bullied at school. They mock his father, Gavin’s choices of dress — rather than the school uniform, Gavin dresses like an airship pilot, which he longs to be — and his sexuality. Gavin takes it all on the chin, and while he doesn’t like the school, he doesn’t carry any hatred within himself. It’s part of what makes him a good friend, in that he’s willing to forgive even his bully when Wish (short for Aloysius) finally makes an effort to be friends with him. Gavin longs for adventure and freedom, but when offered the chance to be free … he declines. Gavin knows his duty, and isn’t afraid to face it.
Two young princes who are foretold of in a prophecy meet thanks to the machinations and interference of the dark warlock, Blaylock. There’s an instant appreciation for one another when they meet; Orion is quite taken with Gavin — especially as he spies on him taking a bath — and Gavin is far from unaware of how handsome the warlock prince is. What neither of them had counted on was Lucas.
Lucas and Gavin have been sneaking around at school. Holding hands here, a shy kiss there, but it’s never gone much farther, and when everything erupts into chaos as the Tuatha Dé Danan invade London, they don’t have time to do much more than keep each other alive (along with Wish and Gavin’s best gal pal, Landa). When Orion and Gavin begin their flirtation, Lucas is heartbroken, angry, and furious, and it’s hard to say who he’s angrier at: the interloper, or the boy who was supposed to love him.
It’s a tangled love triangle that works well within the twisty, intricate plotting of the book. This story has wheels within wheels, both of character motivations and sudden curve balls thrown at the characters. There are herrings so red they look like ghost peppers, and side characters — such as Masheck — that I honestly wanted to see more of. I’m not generally a fan of steampunk, but I had such fun with this book. The world building is creative, the MacGuffins are well thought out with an interesting back story, and the myths and legends the author draws from (which I won’t name, lest I ruin the surprise for you) are treated with respect and thoughtfulness.
The prose can be a bit simplistic, and there are parts where the writing gets bogged down and stilted as the author works to make each kingdom’s vernacular unique — the magical oaths and curses of Ireland versus the clockwork cleverness of England — but these are small catches that are smoothed out as the action gets going. The first twenty percent of this book was a bit slow with the set up, but once the action got going it just didn’t stop, and I was honestly surprised, pleasantly so, at the ending of this book. Too often, with love triangles, the third person is there as window dressing, but between Orion, Gavin and Lucas, I can honestly say I came to care for all three of them.
This is the first book in a series, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the story and more of each and every one of the characters, even the villains.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.