The Stone in the Skull

Elizabeth Bear. Tor, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8013-5
With a glorious and dramatic story, Bear begins a stunning new series set in the same world as her Eternal Sky trilogy. South of towering mountains lie the Lotus Kingdoms, an analog of our own Indian subcontinent. The Dead Man, once guard to a caliph who’s now dead himself, and the Gage, a hulking brass automaton, protect a caravan that travels over the mountain passes and down into the Lotus Kingdoms during monsoon season. The pair bear a message from the Eyeless One, a powerful wizard, to Mrithuri, ruling rajni of Sarathai-tia, who seeks a way to put off her powerful male cousins and secure her country. Both Mrithuri and her cousin, Sayeh Rajni of Ansh-Sahal, receive dark omens of further threats to their rule. With sumptuous prose, Bear details the opulence of royal courts, a sodden journey, and intricate rituals. Colors, textures, and aromas enrich her descriptions of lands that stand on the brink of war. Bear’s worldbuilding stretches from the Cauled Sun in the heavens to the vast ecosystem of Mother River Sarathai, and her characters nod to fantasy archetypes while remaining individual. Agent: Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Literary. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/14/2017
Release date: 10/10/2017
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