Miss Em is so excited about this book, she needs the objectivity of the third person to contain her excitement lest she put you off like an over-eager host. I loved it, dear reader. And I must ask you not to start the book before an important project, like a cruise, because, dear reader, Miss Em snarled every moment she was forced to put the book down for some foolishness like sail-away parties, balcony dining, stunning ocean views, or any of that rot. Thank God I finished it before the Dom Perignon came along! But Miss Em believes this book is destined to be a classic, too. The publisher’s copy cannot do what Ms. Addison does, drawing you heart and soul into both her world and her characters. Here’s an excerpt, much more revealing than the plot blurb from the publisher:
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
News Comes to Edonomee
Maia woke with his cousin’s cold fingers digging into his shoulder.
“Cousin? What…” He sat up, rubbing at his eyes with one hand. “What time is it?”
“Get up!” Setheris snarled. “Hurry!”
Obediently, Maia crawled out of bed, clumsy and sleep-sodden. “What’s toward? Is there a fire?”
“Get thy clothes on.” Setheris shoved yesterday’s clothes at him. Maia dropped them, fumbling with the strings of his nightshirt, and Setheris hissed with exasperation as he bent to pick them up. “A messenger from the court. That’s what’s toward.”
“A message from my father?”
“Is’t not what I said? Merciful goddesses, boy, canst do nothing for thyself? Here!” He jerked the nightshirt off, caring neither for the knotted strings nor for Maia’s ears, and shoved his clothes at him again. Maia struggled into drawers, trousers, shirt, and jacket, aware that they were wrinkled and sweat-stained, but unwilling to try Setheris’s ill temper by saying so. Setheris watched grimly by the single candle’s light, his ears flat against his head. Maia could not find his stockings, nor would Setheris give him time to search. “Come along!” he said as soon as Maia had his jacket fastened, and Maia followed him barefoot out of the room, noticing in the stronger light that while Setheris was still properly and fully attired, his face was flushed. So he had not been wakened from sleep by the emperor’s messenger, but only because he had not yet been to bed. Maia hoped uneasily that Setheris had not drunk enough metheglin to mar the glossy perfection of his formal court manners.
Maia ran his hands through his hair, fingers catching on knots in his heavy curls. It would not be the first time one of his father’s messengers had witnessed him as unkempt as a half-witted ragpicker’s child, but that did not help with the miserable midnight imaginings: So, tell us, how looked our son? He reminded himself it was unlikely his father ever asked after him in the first place and tried to keep his chin and ears up as he followed Setheris into the lodge’s small and shabby receiving room.
The messenger was maybe a year or so older than Maia himself, but elegant even in his road-stained leathers. He was clearly full-blooded elvish, as Maia was not; his hair was milkweed-pale, and his eyes the color of rain. He looked from Setheris to Maia and said, “Are you the Archduke Maia Drazhar, only child of Varenechibel the Fourth and Chenelo Drazharan?”
“Yes,” Maia said, bewildered.
And then bewilderment compounded bewilderment, as the messenger deliberately and with perfect dignity prostrated himself on the threadbare rug. “Your Imperial Serenity,” he said.
“Oh, get up, man, and stop babbling!” Setheris said. “We understood that you had messages from the Archduke’s father.”
“Then you understand what we do not,” the messenger said, rising again to his feet, as graceful as a cat. “We bear messages from the Untheileneise Court.”
Maia said hastily, merely to prevent the altercation from escalating, “Please, explain.”
“Your Serenity,” the messenger said. “The airship Wisdom of Choharo crashed yesterday, sometime between sunrise and noon. The Emperor Varenechibel the Fourth, the Prince Nemolis, the Archduke Nazhira, and the Archduke Ciris were all on board. They were returning from the wedding of the Prince of Thu-Athamar.”
“And the Wisdom of Choharo crashed,” Maia said slowly, carefully.
“Yes, Serenity,” said the messenger. “There were no survivors.”
Obviously, there’s going to be plenty of plot here, and it is deftly handled. No horribly dangling loose ends, but plenty of room for a sequel (please, please!). Lovely world-building; I would call it somewhat Tolkienesque with an Asian touch, just to help you orient yourself—this is a fully original world. (The pronunciation guide is at the back of the book, btw, but the archaic forms do not grate, I promise.) It’s the story of a poor orphan boy elevated to a king, trying to live his values. Now that Maia is king, will he heap upon his former guardian the abuse he deserves? What or who caused the airship to crash? Can he find love, or at least friendship, in an arranged marriage? Can he ever trust anyone, or will he always be as alone as he has been since his mother died? Can and should the artificers build a bridge across the great river? Will anyone at court ever appreciate him like we, the readers, do?
Why does Miss Em think this book deserves “classic” status? The book satisfies on all levels. Beautifully written descriptions and dialogue engage the heart and the mind and the soul in the real lives and dilemmas of the characters. The book’s themes are power, poverty, and compassion—and it doesn’t preach. Miss Em loves it because it is like The Secret Garden in its tenderness and philosophy, and like Siddhartha and The Glass Bead Game in its complexity and spirituality.
Miss Em received an e-galley through the publisher and Netgalley, but has ordered the hardcopy to start her collection of Ms. Addison’s books, next to Michelle Sagara West, Modesitt, Diana Wynne Jones, Tamora Pierce, Miller & Lee, and the other authors in her permanent library. She has assumed the copyright permission. She hopes you will buy it, love it, and gift it, too.