In a hidden desert sanctuary, the sorcerer-priest of a reborn faith uncovers dark truths about his world and its masters in the first book of Victoria Strauss’s fantasy masterwork, the Way of Ârata
A realm long held in the iron grasp of godless tyrants, Arsace is finally free to worship its beloved, once-outlawed deity, Ârata. But decades of cruelty and oppression have left their mark—evidenced not only by the desecrated Âratist temples throughout the holy city of Baushpar but by the widespread mistrust and suspicion that has lately fallen on the Shapers, the powerful mages whose magic is beholden to no religious or government institution.
Both a Shaper and a deeply devout priest, Gyalo Amdo Samchen has embarked on a great mission into the sacred Burning Land to rescue the renegades who, years before, fled into the desert to escape the city’s madness—among them the Dreamer Axane, who dares not reveal her forbidden visions of a world beyond. But shocking truths await Gyalo in the hidden sanctuary of Refuge—and what he learns there of his quest, his land, its leaders, and its faith will cause him to question everything he fervently believes while providing the terrible spark that could ignite the war to end all wars.
In a magnificent feat of world building, Victoria Strauss has created a unique, vividly imagined land, society, and religious culture while spinning a riveting tale of duty, revelation, destiny, and magic that places her in the top ranks of contemporary fantasists.
“A deeply felt and richly imagined tale that explores issues of faith, destiny and the fallibility of human nature.” —Jacqueline Carey, author of the Kushiel series
“Compelling . . . thought-provoking . . . Strauss succeeds by wrapping her theology lesson in strong characterization and fine storytelling.” —The Cincinnati Enquirer
“Shines with intelligence . . . This is one of those novels that envelops readers, the kind of book that makes it a pleasure to linger in its imagined world.” —Science Fiction Weekly
Victoria Strauss is the author of nine novels for adults and young adults, including Color Song, the Stone fantasy duology, and the Way of Ârata series. She has also written short stories and book reviews, and her work has appeared in Writer’s Digest, among other magazines. In 2006 Strauss served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards, and in 2009 she received the Service to SFWA Award for cofounding Writer Beware, a publishing-industry watchdog group. Strauss lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Two theocratic societies clash in this solid if predictable fantasy from Strauss (The Arm of the Stone). Overthrown decades ago by an egalitarian revolution that quickly evolved into a totalitarian state, the Brethren of the Way of rata have regained power in the largest of the seven nations of Galea. The Brethren, incarnate Sons and Daughters of the First Messenger who revealed the Way of rata 12 centuries earlier, are aided by those gifted with the powers of Dreaming (astral projection) and of Shaping (the ability to transform inanimate material). Vowed ratist and Shaper Gyalo travels south to investigate a rumored community of "lost" ratists existing in the harsh and holy Burning Land. If Gyalo survives his perilous journey, he will discover an enclave called Refuge. The people of Refuge, guided by the revelations of their first leader, believe they are the last remnants of humanity. Gyalo's mere existence either challenges their faith or fulfills it. Axane, a daughter of Refuge's elected leader who has hidden her ability to Dream, dreams of Gyalo and his expedition. She recognizes her world is not as she has been taught. With both sides believing the other is blasphemous and heretical, disaster looms. The novel's interesting exploration of a messiah-like character's struggle with his faith outweighs the more melodramatic role of Axane, who's a standard fantasy heroine, strong yet vulnerable, obedient yet rebellious. In the end the author lays a firm foundation for an eventual sequel. (On sale Jan. 20)