- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
When Nigel Oldhall hires on to pilot a magic carpetship under the name of Enoch Jones, it seems the perfect way for him to travel without attracting attention. For the English nobleman has in his possession the two most powerful jewels ...
When Nigel Oldhall hires on to pilot a magic carpetship under the name of Enoch Jones, it seems the perfect way for him to travel without attracting attention. For the English nobleman has in his possession the two most powerful jewels in the universe. His mission is to return them to their shrine in deepest Africa, restoring order to the world–and to his life. But he doesn’t count on being attacked by Chinese pirates–or being held captive by a shape-shifting beauty…
Daughter of the Dragon King, sister of the new True Emperor of All Under Heaven, Red Jade is also on a mission: to reclaim the royal status stolen from her family by invaders. Since their expulsion, they have ruled only a mystical shadow-realm. Now, with the jewels in her sight, Red Jade has the chance to rule all. But she soon finds herself, and Enoch, trapped in a scheme that may cause her to change loyalties–and discover her heart’s true destiny.
This lush but too-pat conclusion to Hoyt's alternate history trilogy (after 2008's Soul of Fire) plays out the implications of British adventurer Nigel Oldhall's choice to save the universe with magic jewels instead of handing them over to Queen Victoria so she could restore her empire. Oldhall now attempts to return the gems to their African home, but he runs afoul of exiled Chinese were-dragons who seek his prize. Ambitious Chinese minister Zhang wants to seize power from the opium-addicted emperor, while the emperor's sister, Red Jade, wishes to protect her brother and his throne. Oldhall must navigate treachery from all sides to help an unexpected ally and achieve his goals. Hoyt tosses in an appealing cross-cultural romance and the conflicting pressures of loyalty and honor, but cuts them short with an overly neat ending. (Nov.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Red Jade held her breath as her brother prepared to set fire to the paper boats and the hordes of carefully detailed paper dragons. She wanted to close her eyes and shut out the scene, but her will alone kept them open. Through the screen of her eyelashes, she saw Wen approach the altar upon which the funerary gifts for their father had been set. Above that, another altar held the tablets of their ancestors.
Red Jade had supervised and arranged it all. She had made her father's women cut and glue and color and gild for days, so that on the lower jade table there stood a palace in paper—the palace her family hadn't possessed in millennia. To the right of it stood row upon row of paper boats, minutely detailed, like the barges upon which Red Jade had spent her whole life. In the middle stood representations of the court—men and women meant to be her father's servants in the afterlife: a coterie of pretty paper dolls for a harem, and a group of broad-shouldered male dolls for the hard tasks her father's spirit might want done, and to protect him from whatever evil he might encounter. On the left, in massed confusion, were perfect, miniature paper dragons. Herself, in dark red. Red Jade. And Wen in blue. For some reason, seeing them there, before the palace that would never be theirs, made the tears she refused to let fall join in obscuring her sight.
Her brother, whom she must now think of as the True Emperor of All Under Heaven—though their family had been in exile for many centuries and she doubted the present usurpers even knew of their existence—held the burning joss stick in his hand and dropped slowly to his knees.
Let him not fall, Red Jade prayed. She wasn't sure to whom, though it might have been to her father's spirit. Only she didn't know if her father cared, and she wished there was someone else she could appeal to. Let Wen not fall, she told herself, sternly, and felt a little more confident. It was insane to think she could keep Wen upright and within the bounds of proper behavior through the sheer power of her mind, but then . . . She always had, hadn't she? And she had hidden his addiction from their father as well.
When had she ever had anyone else to ask for help? So when she saw Wen's head start to bob forward, like the head of one overcome with sleep, she willed him to stay up, on his knees, facing forward.
Wen straightened. The joss stick swept left and right, setting all the pretty paper images aflame. And Red Jade fought against the sob climbing into her throat even as the sound of her father's concubines erupting into ritualistic screams deafened her mind. She would miss her father. She was afraid for Wen and her own future. But, in this moment, all had been done well, and Wen was behaving as he should.
She finally allowed her eyes to shut as Wen's voice mechanically recited the prayers that should set their father's soul free and make it secure in the ever-after.
Their father was dead. He'd been the Dragon Emperor, the True Emperor of All Under Heaven, the latest descendant of the ancient kings of China. Wen, his only son, must inherit. Because Wen was the right and proper heir. And because only Wen could protect his half-sister, the daughter of the long-dead, foreign-devil concubine.
She followed him to his room after the ceremony. It was her father's old room, in the main barge of their flotilla. Servants and courtiers prostrated themselves as Wen passed by, knocking their foreheads against the dusty floor, but he didn't seem to notice. Wen was tired and anxious. His eyes kept darting here and there, as though he had trouble focusing both sight and mind.
The men surrounding him—his father's advisers—probably knew as well as she did that he longed for his fix of opium, but they gave no indication of it. It was all "Excellency" this and "Milord" that as each competed with the other, asking boons on this, his first day in power. Repairs to this barge and additions to that one, and a promotion in the precedence of yet another.
All of them Wen ignored, walking just ahead, his eyes blindly seeking. But as the entourage prepared to follow him into his quarters, he spun around and clapped his dismissal. At the back of the group of followers, Red Jade stood waiting, not quite daring enter her newly powerful brother's room without his permission. For years she'd protected and helped him, but now he was the emperor and her ascendancy over him was gone.
Yet seeing her at the back, he smiled and motioned for her to approach, which she did, closing the door behind her.
"We're done now, Red Jade," he told her, his man's tones distorted into a child's whine. It was a voice that had only developed after he started smoking opium. "I've done what you wanted, and now I'm tired."
Part of Red Jade felt sorry for him. They were of an age, she and Wen, though Wen was the son of the first lady, their father's official wife. Red Jade was only the daughter of a concubine with red hair and blue eyes who had been stolen off a foreign carpetship.
And though Red Jade looked Chinese, with her long, smooth dark hair and black eyes, she knew her eyes had a blue sheen, and there was something to her features that wasn't quite right. She was also too tall.
Her father had teased her about it, telling her they'd never get her a husband. No man would want to look up at his lady.
The recollection that Zhang would be out there, prowling and planning to make her his, sent a shiver of fear up her spine, and made her catch her breath. "Not yet, Older Brother," she said. "We must be able to lift and move the Dragon Boats. I—" Lifting the Dragon Boats for the first time after the emperor's death and the new emperor's ascension was something only the emperor could do. After that, everyone could lift them and fly them. But that first time was the confirmation that the new emperor had the mandate of heaven.
He gave her one of the startlingly cunning looks that he could give—a sudden expression of knowledge that belied the normal dreamlike tone of his days. "You mean you must lift them."
His look was so like their father's that she bowed deeply and whispered, "I do not mean to take over your—"
"No," Wen said, and shook his head. "No, of course not. But let's not play games, Younger Sister. Not with each other. We both know that the opium interferes with flying the boats. It interferes with all magic. I would not risk my people." He turned abruptly toward a table that was set at the foot of his bed. Bed and table both were gilded, and inlaid heavily with semi-precious stones. They were very old and had come—centuries ago—from their ancestors' palace. Now they stood in uneasy contrast with the rest of the furniture, which ranged from heavy, foreign, mahogany furniture scavenged from carpetships to improvised pieces put together from flotsam and tatters.
The boxes, like the table, were made of fragrant woods and covered in gold leaf and jewels. Jade had seen them open before, when her father had searched for something. So she knew what they contained—papers and jewels, most of them magical and bequeathed to them by long-lost generations. Wen rummaged through the boxes as if he knew what he was looking for, and Jade held her tongue while he did so.
"Ah," he said at last. He held aloft a heavy signet ring, with a bright red stone, upon which were chiseled the characters for Power and Following. Jade, who'd never seen that ring, blinked at Wen.
"Father showed me all these boxes before he died," Wen said. "And he told me what each jewel and paper did—magically, as well as symbolically. This ring was worn by our father when his own father was incapable of ruling the Dragon Boats, in his final years of life. So our father wore the ring, and with it could command the Dragon Boats with the magic of the emperor and keep the magic of the emperor active so people could keep flying the Dragon Boats—even if the emperor himself was too weak to do it. He could also command all of the Imperial power. And it's magical, so it will stay on through the change into dragon and back again."
"But . . ." Red Jade said, stricken. "I am only a woman. And my mother—"
"Was a foreign devil, yes," Wen said, with unaccustomed dryness. "But, Jade, you've been doing half of Father's work for years—everything that didn't require Imperial magic. And now . . ." He shrugged. "I can be the emperor, or I can dream." He gestured toward his opium pipe on the small, rickety pine table near the gilded bed. "I'd prefer to dream."
Their eyes met for a moment. Jade had never truly discussed his addiction with him, because Wen would get defensive and change the subject. So he'd never before admitted the power his dreams held over him, and never so bluntly confessed that he cared for nothing else.
What did he mean to do? Did he mean to leave her in charge of the Dragon Boats when he ignored them? Did he think that the Dragon Boats would accept the rulings of a woman, and a woman with foreign blood in her veins at that?
Zhang would take over. Zhang would . . . She felt her throat close. She couldn't tell her brother the disgust she felt for his second-in-command—once their father's second-_in-command. Though he was of an old dragon dynasty, and powerful in magic and might, she didn't trust him. And she did not wish to be his wife.
But Wen was reclining upon his cushions and looked at her, mildly surprised, as though she had stayed much longer than he expected. He waved his hand. "Go, Sister. I am tired. I've had too much reality."
Jade bowed and walked backward—as she'd once done in their father's presence—till she was at the doors. These she opened, without turning around, and left, still bowing—making sure that everyone saw her bow, so they knew she respected her brother and valued his authority.
While the guards at the entrance of her brother's chambers closed the doors, she turned and walked away, linking her hands together as she did so. Her right hand covered her left, and she felt the red jewel on her finger. It felt cold and hard and powerful. The jewel with the power to make the boats fly.
But the jewel only worked if the emperor had power. Had Wen's opium dreams grounded the boats forever?
The Strange Destiny of Enoch Jones
Nigel Oldhall walked along the carpetship port's narrow cobblestoned passageways, between the deeper indentations of the carpetship docks. Above those square indentations, the carpets floated, just inches off the ground, tethered with strong ropes. And above the carpets, buildings of various sizes and shapes—the carpetships themselves—rose.
Nigel counted the various exotic flags—Turkish and Armenian, Russian and French. And he hoped he looked the part of a carpetship magician who'd been doing this for a very long time, and had no other expectations in life.
He was a tall, spare man with such perfectly chiseled features that he might have posed for one of the portraits of the angel with a sword depicted in the old stained-glass windows scattered throughout Europe during the early Middle Ages, the one who was supposed to guard the faithful against invading armies. Except that his features were just a little too spare, a little too strong, to truly look unmanly. As it was, he merely looked refined—an appearance that betrayed his noble origins.
Anywhere else but in a carpetship port, someone would have noted the contrast between his features and his well-worn suit; his heavy, almost military boots and the scarred travel bag on his shoulder. But here, he merely looked like a carpetship magician—that strange breed of men who went from port to port and from ship to ship, rarely lingering more than a few days in one place. More often than not, they were renegade noblemen, fugitives from justice or other such shady characters.
Nigel felt shady enough to fit the part. The gleaming pale hair he'd once worn tight-clipped to his head had been allowed to grow unkempt, so that he looked as though he'd fallen on hard times. His once-pale skin now sported the reddish tan of someone who lived too much in the sun and wind. His clothes—which once had been carefully tailored and made of the best fabrics money could buy—had been lost in the wilds of Africa. In their place, he'd acquired serviceable, slightly worn, secondhand clothes made of good material. These, too, had once been tailored, but not for him. They molded uneasily to the body his errant life had given him. The coat stretched tight across shoulders that had grown more muscular in the past year. And coat and waistcoat and shirt all hung loosely over a waist that his frequent, intense use of magic had made far slimmer than it ever had been before.
The carpetship port in Venice was built just outside the city, and it was rumored that all of it was balanced on stilts. Until it had been constructed a century ago, there had been no houses around it. Now it seemed impossible to imagine the carpetport without the bustling, busy multinational beehive at its feet.
In assigned docking spaces, over carefully laid cobbles, carpetships from every country fluttered. Bright-fringed, new carpets supported multistory pleasure ships. Frayed carpets supported tramp vessels that carried cut-rate European goods abroad. And there was everything in between, too—merchant ships, troop transports—each of them bustling with activity. And near the docking ramp of almost all, a blackboard stood, listing when the ship would be departing and for where, and what kind of personnel it needed.
Almost all of them, at the very top, advertised their need for a flight magician, because of the very nature of the breed. To begin with, all but a few flight magicians had to be of pure noble blood; lesser men hadn't the power to make the heavy constructions of wood and glass and metal sail upon the currents of air. This requirement eliminated the half-magicians and quarter-magicians—those by-blows of noblemen—who made the textile factories and the trains of England hum, producing the goods with which England flooded the world and held her empire.
Flight magicians were thus generally poor second sons of noble families that had squandered their fortunes on amusements, or bastard sons whose parents were both noble. Or young men who had committed one of those crimes for which even noblemen got punished. And very few of them flew the same ship on two voyages. Rather, they moved from ship to ship and from continent to continent, crisscrossing the globe like nomads, forever barred from their birthright. Which they were. Which Nigel was, too—if not forever, at least until his mission was done.
Posted October 11, 2012
A shecat silently walks through the shadows. She leaped over a stream and onto the opposite bank. She streched out on a smooth rock slightly shaded by a weeping willow. The shecat was white with ginger splotches and blue eyes with flecks of amber in them. She sighed and closed her eyes lightly.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 14, 2008
Charlemagne stole the ruby the Soul of Fire from its avatar shrine in the heart of Africa he used it to bind the world¿s magic to him and his descendents. Nigel Oldhall was to obtain the rubies and turn them over to his boss, but learns instead the worlds are splitting out from this earth until eventually the realms implode. Nigel changes his mission to return the rubies to their rightful original locations in order to save the world he knows.------------ Before he can complete his quest, Zhgng, the second in command to the True Emperor of All Under Heaven, steals one of the precious gems because he wants to be the new ruler instead of Wen, an opium addict. Wen depends on his sister Red Jade to rule behind the scenes. Jade and Wen¿s third wife known as the Third Lady go on separate missions to save the Chinese throne from the usurpers. Whereas Third Lady escorts Wen to the underworld to fight to regain his power stolen by Zhang, Jade goes after the rubies disguised as a dragon. When she and Nigel encounter one another, they each realize the mission has morphed out of control as has their hearts.------------ In the Hoyt vision of the Victorian Age, magic is controlled by the nobles of Europe aging Queen Victoria wants to use the rubies to regain her youth and to bind the world¿s magic to her and her legitimate offspring. Originally Nigel was doing her bidding, but he concludes the rubies need to return to their proper place even if magic trickles down to the commoners to do otherwise could destroy the earth. Nigel has grown since he started his quest) see SOUL OF FIRE and HEART OF LIGHT), but like Jade is unable to reveal his deepest regard for her (or him in her case). Sarah A. Hoyt delivers a first class urban historical fantasy filled with HEART AND SOUL.------------- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.