“MacLeod is set to become a writer of the magnitude of Dickens or Tolkien.” —The Guardian
Aether is industry, industry is magic and the Great Guilds rule the known world.
Raised amid the smokestakes, terraced houses and endless subterranean pounding of the aether engines of the Yorkshire town of Bracebridge, Robert Borrows is nevertheless convinced that life holds a greater destiny than merely working endless shifts for one of the Lesser Guilds. Then, on a day out with his mother to the strange gardens and weirdly encrusted towers of a remote mansion, he encounters a wizened changeling, and the young girl in her charge called Anna, and glimpses a world of wonder, mystery and surprise.
From then on, as he flees to London in the hope of escape and advancement, and explores its wide streets and dark alleys, and all the tiers of society from the lowest to the highest, he comes to realize that he holds the keys to secrets far bigger than even he imagined.
A dazzling melange of Dickens and Peake, flavored with steampunk and magical realism, yet seen through a kaleidoscopically individual gaze, in The Light Ages, double World Fantasy Award winner Ian R MacLeod has created a novel for this and every age.
Praise for The Light Ages:
“MacLeod's descriptive powers are so effective that you can visualize every detail… [He] skillfully incorporates literary influences ranging from William Blake to Dickens to 1984 and the working class novels of the 1950s—and arrives at something original. Magical, visionary and enthralling, The Light Ages is award-winning stuff.” —SFX
“Totally convincing and vividly written, this book invests the dark streets of London with a magic the reader will never forget… a brilliant writer.” —Tim Powers
“A haunting fantasy version of Victorian England… brought to life with compassionate characters and lyrical writing.” —The Denver Post
“The novel's industrial alternative London echoes Dickens in its rich bleakness and M. John Harrison's Viriconium in its inventive Gothic complexity. A gripping page-turner. A hearty read. Rising star Ian R MacLeod offers an original political fable rivaling in ambition and execution the very best of today's new science fantasies.” —Michael Moorcock
Several hundred years ago a magical substance known as aether was discovered in England, and it changed the world in this beautifully written, complex fantasy novel, British author MacLeod's second (after the underrated The Great Wheel). Kings were overthrown. Aether-based industries flourished. Now, near the end of the Third Age of Industry (roughly the equivalent of our Victorian Age), great Guilds run the nation. Powerful captains of industry live like nobility, while the impoverished masses risk their lives mining, refining and working with the dangerous substance that supports the economy. Cracks are beginning to show in society, however. The poor are getting poorer. Quality workmanship is hard to find. Those who come into too much contact with aether often mutate into sometimes monstrous creatures called changelings. Worse still, there are dark rumors that the aether may be running out. The narrator, Robert Borrows, who rises from near-poverty as the son of a humble guildsman, falls in love with a changeling, participates in the revolution that brings the Third Age to its end and winds up among the masters of the new world that rises out of its ruins. With its strong character development and gritty, alternate London, this book won't attract fans of Robert Jordan or Terry Goodkind, but should hold great appeal to readers who love the more sophisticated fantasy of Michael Swanwick, John Crowley or even China Mi ville. (May 6)