Empire of Unreason (Age of Unreason Series)

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There has never been an epic quite like The Age of Unreason. By interweaving reality with arcane fantasy, J. Gregory Keyes proves himself a literary alchemist who vividly recreates the eighteenth century–and brings it brilliantly to new life.

When Sir Isaac Newton uncovered the secrets of alchemy, he could never have imagined the tragic results. Dark sorcery rules. Europe is lost and the American colonists have been driven south. The demonic ...

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There has never been an epic quite like The Age of Unreason. By interweaving reality with arcane fantasy, J. Gregory Keyes proves himself a literary alchemist who vividly recreates the eighteenth century–and brings it brilliantly to new life.

When Sir Isaac Newton uncovered the secrets of alchemy, he could never have imagined the tragic results. Dark sorcery rules. Europe is lost and the American colonists have been driven south. The demonic creatures known as the Malekim won’t tolerate even a flicker of hope. Any who oppose them– Franklin, Voltaire, even the mysterious daughters of Lilith–will be swept away. However Benjamin Franklin and his secret society, the Junto, manage a precarious existence founded on the mutual trust of Native Americans, whites, and freed blacks. And as armies and alchemy clash, the Choctaw shaman Red Shoes witnesses a vision of an ancient, implacable evil–and of a young boy who shines as brightly as an angel . . . the fallen, avaricious kind.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The Age of Unreason "features the classic elements . . . high-tech gadgetry, world-threatening superpower conflict, a quest to save the world and a teen hero who's smarter than most of the adults."
—USA Today

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Keyes's latest addition to his distinguished Age of Unreason series is a disappointment. Set, like its predecessors, in the 18th century, the book explores a world that's been knocked out of whack by Isaac Newton's alchemical discoveries. European leaders, thirsting for power, have devastated the European continent and plunged the northern colonies into a new Ice Age. Meanwhile, malevolent spirits called the malakim are plotting to destroy all of humanity by pitting one faction of mankind against another. Keyes (A Calculus of Angels) guides readers through this world via three separate stories of alchemy and intrigue. One concerns the secret, anti-malakim American Junto, a considerably outnumbered society made up of American Indian tribesmen, liberated black slaves and European intellectual refugees (like Voltaire), spearheaded by Newton's former apprentice, young Benjamin Franklin. Then there's Red Shoes, a Choctaw war prophet who's heading west to slay the malakim-sent dreams that are threatening humanity. Finally, in St. Petersburg, there's a beautiful scientist named Adrienne de Mornay de Montchevreuil who's playing a dangerous political game of Russian roulette with the factions clamoring to replace the missing czar, Peter the Great. She manipulates individual malakim and leaves Russia to search for her son, Nicolas, the prophetic Sun Boy rumored to be leading the malakim in a crusade against civilization. Although embellished by clever sidelong portraits of European and American thinkers of the real Enlightenment--including Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus and Russian Prince Menshikov--this intermediate stage of Keyes's fantasy saga lacks the driving brilliance of its two predecessors. Even Keyes's attempts to compensate for the absence of suspense (via thrilling set-piece nightmares and battle scenes) don't save the book from its hazy, diffuse plot. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
When James Francis Edward Stuart, also known as the Pretender, attempts to reassert English rule over America, Benjamin Franklin finds himself once more in the middle of a tangled web of politics and magic. Set in an alternate world devastated by a comet that has destroyed most of Europe, Keyes's (Newton's Cannon) iconoclastic tale of science and sorcery leavened by a set of otherworldly villains offers deliciously skewed portraits of historical figures as well as a genuinely intriguing plot. For most fantasy collections. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
Third installment of what's settling in to become yet another interminable series (A Calculus of Angels, 1999, etc.). The eye-grabber here: in an alternate 17th century where science and alchemy both work, the world is threatened by insubstantial yet malevolent entities called Malakim. Sir Isaac Newton died defending Europe against a Malakim-orchestrated onslaught. London, meanwhile, was annihilated by a comet strike that's plunged North America into an ice age: Only young Ben Franklin and friends survive to resist the Malakim. A series that's wandered a long, long way from reality: Startling ideas, but a tough narrative slog.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345406101
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/29/2001
  • Series: Age of Unreason Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: FIRST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,109,064
  • Product dimensions: 4.50 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

J. Gregory Keyes is a teacher at the University of Georgia and is pursuing a Ph.D. in the anthropology of belief system and mythology. He was born in Mississippi and raised there and on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. He is the author of The Waterborn and The Blackgod as well as the acclaimed Age of Unreason series.

There has never been an epic quite like that created by J. Gregory Keyes in the first two books of his Age of Unreason saga. With a stunningly original blend of alternate history, fantasy, and science fiction, Keyes has vividly reimagined the eighteenth century and brought it brilliantly to life. Now his unforgettable adventure shifts from Europe to the tumultuous shores of the New World . . .

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Read an Excerpt

His body closed like a fist, each muscle trying to tear free of bone. He snarled through his teeth, watched the angel with slitted eyes.

"You can still change your mind," the angel said reasonably, "and obey me." It raised its feathery wings. Its face, as always, was a mask of light.

Peter tasted blood in his mouth, but he managed to get the words out as he wanted, clear and measured. "I am Peter Alexeyevich! I am the tsar of Russia. You cannot command me."

"I am an angel of God."

"You are not. You are a betrayer and a liar."

"I saved your life. I saved your empire. I helped you control your Old Believers. You were happy to tell them I was an angel."

Peter scooted against the cabin wall and dug his hands into the deep pockets of his coat. His face, which often slipped his control, spasmed terribly. "What do you want?" he demanded. "What do you devils really want?"

"Only the one thing I asked. Have I ever asked for anything else? Any reward for my services?"

"It isn't one thing. It's everything. I know you now."

"I doubt that. But, very well, if you insist on dying."

Peter pulled something from his pocket—a small cube with a circular depression in the top. It was humming, a single clear note.

The angel paused. "What is that?"

"Something a friend gave me. A wise friend, as it turns out." He placed a sphere the size of a musket ball in the depression, and a shriek cut through the fabric of the universe. Peter felt it in his bones. The angel felt it, too, and dripped fire into Peter's veins, even as a wind came that tore it apart, each feather dissolving into a line of smoke.

The death of the angel did not stop the pain. A wave of agony crested over Peter's head and dragged him under; and suddenly he had no weight at all, as if he were falling from a height with no end.

Red Shoes jerked awake to find himself already on his feet. He swayed there for a moment, trying to remember where he was, but the otherworld sight was still wrapped around him, making the trees, the earth he stood on, the stars themselves too strange to recognize.

He found his pipe and a pinch of Ancient Tobacco and lit it from an ember that had strayed from the remains of the fire. The warm, musky smoke strengthened the breath in him and curled from his nose. Gradually the world came clear.

He was Red Shoes, war prophet and miracle maker of the Choctaw people, and he stood on an earthen mound in the Natchez country, near the Great Water Road. The mound's top was as broad as a village, and around it lay swamp, the underworld kissing the earth from beneath.

A soft cough came behind him, and he turned to regard Skin Eater.

Skin Eater was Natchez man, a descendant of the Sun, his dark skin mottled with even darker tattoos, blurred by the eighty winters of his life.

"I felt it," Skin Eater murmured. "Do you know what it was?"

"No," Red Shoes admitted. "Something important, something strong. My shadowchildren died bringing it to me."

"From the West."

"Yes. Since the strange news from the West began, I have sent my children out to watch. Now they have seen something."

"West is a big place," Skin Eater observed.

"I know. But my shadowchildren tell me no more than that. If only I knew where in the West ..." Red Shoes trailed off, thinking.

Skin Eater reflected for a moment as he lit his own pipe. "You are more powerful than ever I was," he said, "perhaps the strongest there has ever been. But your people are younger than mine—there are things the Natchez remember that the Choctaw do not."

"I acknowledge that, great-uncle." It was a title of respect, only. He was not related to the old man.

Skin Eater swept his arms around. "This place is an image of the world—do you see? The deeps of the beginning times below and around us, the earth raised up with a face for each direction. The flat top here is the whole surface of the middle world. Like those paintings on paper the French use."

"You mean a map? But maps have things marked on them. Rivers, mountains, towns—"

"But if a town should move, will it move on a French map? Not unless they draw another map, yes? Here, however, you have only to know how to look. Here, the world can always be seen true."

Red Shoes frowned slightly as the implications of the old man's words sunk in. He took another puff of his pipe, and began chant-
ing, walking in widening circles upon the top of the mound, giving smoke to the directions. His feet sank back into the world of spirit, of dream.

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Table of Contents

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2012

    Conceptually grand. Four stars for the story. One star for the proofreading.

    The story continues at the same high quality of the first two volumes. Four stars for the story.

    The transcrition to ebook leaves something to be desired. Obvious OCR mistakes abound. Hyphenation has been scanned in like any other character and there is an ocasional dropped end of a sentence/paragraph.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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