Winner of the 2020 Aurora Award for Best Novel, this fantasy epic tells the tale of one mage who must stand against a Deathless Goddess who controls all magic.
Only in Tananen do people worship a single deity: the Deathless Goddess. Only in this small, forbidden realm are there those haunted by words of no language known to woman or man. The words are Her Gift, and they summon magic.
Mage scribes learn to write Her words as intentions: spells to make beasts or plants, designed to any purpose. If an intention is flawed, what the mage creates is a gossamer: a magical creature as wild and free as it is costly for the mage.
For Her Gift comes at a steep price. Each successful intention ages a mage until they dare no more. But her magic demands to be used; the Deathless Goddess will take her fee, and mages will die.
To end this terrible toll, the greatest mage in Tananen vows to find and destroy Her. He has yet to learn She is all that protects Tananen from what waits outside. And all that keeps magic alive.
This highly stylized fantasy novel from Czerneda (the Clan Chronicles) condenses a doorstopper epic's worth of detail into a relatively small space, creating a molasses-like reading experience. In the land of Tananen, as Czerneda describes repeatedly, a mage scribe uses intention to give magic a direction, but each spell steals a bit of the mage's life for the Deathless Goddess. Despite this high cost, most magic is used to provide frivolities for the wealthy. Mal, a rogue master mage, is determined to end the Goddess's reign so that mage scribes no longer pay for magic with their lives. His path crosses that of Kait, a disciple of the Goddess from Tiler's Hold. She's on a mission to discover why she and her sisters are no longer hearing the Goddess's voice and to find out why the stones of the hold are murmuring evil. The key tying these threads together is found in the gossamers, creatures created when a mage's intent goes wrong. The novel is as ponderous and winding as it is beautifully detailed, and the intricate plot suffers from an overabundance of densely packed information. Diehard epic fantasy fans may find Czerneda's concept intriguing, but there's not enough story to hold it up.