In a remote city on the edge of two worlds, where blood has power and water is more precious than freedom, three far-flung friends unite on a quest to save their families. Sal Hrvati’s estranged father has brought more into the world than the woman he loved. Instead of saving her from the Void Beneath, he has summoned an unknown creature — a creature with a mission of its own and a past that stretches back to the beginning of the world. The quest to find both of them entangles Sal and his companions in a hunt for magical treasure on the floor of the Divide, a mighty crack in the earth inhabited by creatures that are not remotely human. Desert landscapes and dirigibles feature in a fast-paced fantasy that combines romance, adventure, and humor with an original take on magic. The Books of the Cataclysm take inspiration from many arcane and mythological sources. In positing that this world is just one of many "realms," three of which are inhabited by humans during various stages of their lives, it begins in the present world but soon propels the reader to a landscape that is simultaneously familiar and fantastic.
Enge competently blends a compelling plot and unrelentingly grim prose in this somber fantasy debut. The heir to the Empire of Ontil is 12-year-old Lathmar, a terrified child recently orphaned by his own Protector and uncle, Lord Urdhven. His ancient and powerful relatives, controlling Ambrosia and morosely forbidding Morlock, offer their magical aid to reclaim his throne and defeat the Protector. Slowly growing to manhood, Lathmar struggles to assert himself as the emperor-to-be while craving his guardians' parental approval and longing to become more of a participant than an observer. Though the characters are more fascinating than lovable, Enge's precise and elegant language and some darkly harrowing scenes are sure to tug on readers' heartstrings. Legends frequently have predictable conclusions, but even with an unsurprising destination, this coming-of-age narrative makes for an engaging journey.