Robins's debut fantasy chronicles the fascinating transformation of 15-year-old Miranda from girlish street urchin to an attractive, audacious male courtier on a quest for love and vengeance. When the earl of Last decides he needs an heir, he plucks his bastard son, Janus, from the slums of the city of Murne—much to the dismay of Miranda, Janus's constant companion. Determined to find Janus and kill the earl of Last, she dresses as a boy and finds her way into the household of the dissolute Baron Vornatti, an enemy of Last. Trained in all the skills of a decadent and treacherous court by the lecherous baron and his servant Gilly—and possessed by Black-Winged Ani, a bloodthirsty goddess of love and vengeance—Miranda becomes Maledicte. This complex protagonist becomes both a pawn and a power in a darkly original world of doubted gods and declining civilization. Robins is a fantasist with a future. (May)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Maledicteby Lane Robins
Seething with decadent appetites unchecked by law or gods, the court of Antyre is ruled by the last of a dissolute aristocracy. But now to the kingdom comes a handsome, enigmatic
From a dazzling new voice in fantasy comes a mesmerizing tale of treachery, passion, intrigue, betrayal, and an act of pure vengeance that threatens to bring down a kingdom.
Seething with decadent appetites unchecked by law or gods, the court of Antyre is ruled by the last of a dissolute aristocracy. But now to the kingdom comes a handsome, enigmatic nobleman, Maledicte, whose perfect manners, enchanting charisma, and brilliant swordplay entice the most jaded tastes . . . and conceal a hunger beyond reckoning.
For Maledicte is actually a woman named Miranda–a beautiful thief raised in the city’s vicious slums. And she will do anything–even promise her soul to Black-Winged Ani, the most merciless of Antyre’s exiled gods–to reclaim Janus, the lover whose passion still haunts her dreams. As her machinations strike at the heart of Antyre’s powerful noble houses, Miranda must battle not only her own growing bloodlust, but also her lover’s newly kindled and ruthless ambitions. As Ani’s force grows insatiable and out of control, Miranda has no choice but to wield a weapon that may set her free . . . or forever doom her and everything she holds dear.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Robins's intriguing plot immediately draws the reader in to Maledicte's clever world of love and lies. The scene is masterfully set, yet the book falls short in characterization. Each individual character is developed and interesting, but the relationships among them are unclear at times. Readers may be put off by the uncertainty between characters, but they will fall in love with Robins's intricate storytelling. Reviewer: Lucy Freeman, Teen Reviewer
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)
When the cruel Earl of Last reclaims his bastard son, Janus, from the slum district known as the Relicts, Janus's lover, Miranda, takes an oath of vengeance in the ruined temple of black-winged Ani, the supposedly dormant goddess of revenge and love. Miranda assumes the identity of a young man named Maledicte, making her way to the city and, with the help of a patron, insinuating herself into the highest rungs of society, where she reunites with Janus. Though she seems to have gotten what she wanted, Maledicte finds herself falling more and more under Ani's influence, and through her, the dark goddess threatens to destroy the kingdom. Robins's first novel makes good use of the romantic figure of the woman disguised as a boy in a story of personal discovery that is also sensual and seductive in its prose and its imagery. Highly recommended.
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By Lane Robins
Del ReyCopyright © 2007 Lane Robins
All right reserved.
Maledicte lived and Maledicte died
And only at his birth did anybody cry.
How many people did he kill?
One, two, three . . .
—Children’s skipping song
Baron Vornatti was an old man, hunched in his chair, staring at the wonders of his extensive library with a jaded and bleary eye. A sable pelt poured over his wasted legs. Absently, he ruffled the furs while he flipped pages of the book of pornographic woodcuts on his lap. A hedonist and a sensualist, he was much withered by time and pain; on a cold winter’s night, he fondled old memories as he once did flesh. But all his precious memories, of women’s softly rounded shoulders and mounded breasts, the sweet juncture at their thighs, of young men’s ripe buttocks, greedy mouths, and strong square hands, all these could not distract him as they used to do.
His back flared and spasmed. His glassy eyes flew to the old grandfather clock by the door. “Gilly,” he roared. “Time!”
Grinding his teeth, Vornatti sagged forward in the chair to ease the strain. The book fell to the floor, splayed on opened pages. He wanted a distraction, something beyond the torment of his bones and illusory remembrances of the flesh. Once, he had found engrossment in the bloody game ofcourt intrigue, but even that had palled with his mastery of it.
In the distant recesses of the library, beyond the firelight, beyond the lamps, glass broke with a sound like cracking ice. Slow, crunching footsteps echoed.
A chill serpent of air wound around Vornatti’s ankles, hissing with blown snow.
“My lord?” Gilly said from the doorway. The large silver tray of drug and drink was dwarfed in his hands. His voice put a temporary stop to the footsteps.
“We have an intruder,” Vornatti said, straightening with a wince.
“Who’s there?” Gilly said, as the footsteps resumed their slow progress, now thudding against the bare wooden floor. He squinted against the glare of the built-up fire, set the tray down on the thick carpeting beside Vornatti.
The footsteps gained the carpet and disappeared in the muffling softness. Gilly lifted a book pole, holding it across his chest, the hook facing the shadows.
“Put it down, damn it, Gilly. Put it down, and give me my Elysia. Let the bastard wait.”
Gilly hesitated, but finally set the book pole back against Vornatti’s chair.
He bent, turning his back to the shadows, and cradled Vornatti’s withered arm against his own. He drew the Elysia into the glass syringe in a cloudy swirl that held something of its origin in it, the elixir left in Naga’s serpent-scaled wake. Letting it settle long enough so that the contents stopped their eddying, Gilly pushed the needle into the old man’s ropy veins. Vornatti closed his eyes as Gilly worked the plunger, hissed against the bite of it in his blood.
When Gilly looked up, they were no longer alone in the circle of firelight. The intruder shared it with them. It was only a boy, shivering in his thin shirt, blue at the lips. He had shadowed eyes, made darker by a cropped tumble of black curls that seemed to spread shadow out behind him. A thin scar sliced along the left side of his jaw, and he held his right hand behind his back.
Vornatti’s eyes opened and he smiled as if a bit of his past had come back in salacious detail.
“What young toothsome have we here?” he murmured, lazy on a release of pain and burgeoning euphoria. “Gilly, only look what the gods have brought me.”
“Be silent, old man,” the boy said, drawing his arm from behind him. In his hand was a sword.
And such a sword. It was black-bladed, black-hilted. The pommel was a burnished mirrorstone, and the edges were so sharp as to seem blurred in human sight. The cross-hilt was made of stilled, dark wings with wickedly edged feathers more reminiscent of daggers than of flight. Like some remnant from the god-touched times, the sword radiated presence beyond its workmanship.
“Are you Last?” The boy raised the sword, its glitter matched by the wildness in his eyes.
Vornatti wheezed into laughter, slapping Gilly’s arm, startling him. “Last.”
The boy’s face grew red temper lines around the jaw and nose. The scar flared to whiteness. “Don’t laugh at me.” He pushed the blade forward; Vornatti parried with the book pole, still laughing despite the slice the sword had carved in the wood.
Gilly stepped between Vornatti and the blade, and Vornatti stilled his laughter. “There is more than one noble house in Graston. No, boy, I am not Last. Look here.” He thumped the end of the pole on the carpet. “Gilly, get your big feet out of the way and fetch us all drinks.”
He stabbed at the floor again. “See that, boy?”
The carpet was burgundy and blue, and in the center a fantastical creature writhed in golden embroidery.
“I am Vornatti, Baron Vornatti, since you are not likely to know that. An Itarusine subject, now living in Antyre; Aris’s brother-by- law, and accountant. The winged serpent is my crest; Last’s crest is a twisted hourglass, and his motto is ‘only a Last at the last.’ Smug bastard.”
“Who’s Aris?” the boy said.
“Our king,” Gilly said, carrying the tray to the table.
“Oh. Him.” The boy studied the elaborate embroidery on the carpet, the slippers Vornatti wore, the crest imprinted on the spine of the long-forgotten book.
“Are you listening, boy?”
The boy didn’t answer, but his dark eyes flickered to Vornatti’s face, studying the sagging, spotted flesh, the dark rheumy eyes. He let the sword point lower to threaten the floor. “Where do I find Last?”
“What sends you seeking him, blade in hand? Answer me that, first.”
The boy frowned, but visibly needed the answer too badly to play coy. “Last took Janus from me, and left me for dead. I will return the favor, reclaim Janus and leave Last dead. Though I will be less careless and see his heart stop before I go.”
So much emotion was invested in the reply that it seemed a cantrip or incantation, and as rote as a nightly prayer. It silenced Vornatti, and the only sound was Gilly and the chinking of crystal as he poured the requested drinks.
“I doubt that was Last himself,” Vornatti said. “He so rarely soils his hands, and is far more dedicated to a task once undertaken. If it were Last, make no doubts, you would be dead, boy. But who is Janus to warrant such attention?” Vornatti took the goblet Gilly offered him, sipped at the steaming negus. He gestured to Gilly, and Gilly turned the second goblet, the glass meant for him more usually, toward the boy.
Distrust furrowed the boy’s features, and he finally said, “The earl of Last’s bastard son.”
“Last has no living children,” Vornatti said.
Gilly pressed the cup into the boy’s left hand, spoke to Vornatti. “There were rumors. You remember. Celia Rosamunde, the admiral’s daughter.”
“Oh. Her.” Vornatti mocked the boy’s earlier words. “That weak- willed, wanton wench.” He laughed at his own wordplay, and to Gilly’s surprise, even the boy flickered a bitter smile.
“I thought she died,” Vornatti said.
“She was disowned and abandoned when her condition became evident. I heard she made her way to the Relicts and died there.”
“Not yet,” the boy said. Across the room, the boy’s stomach growled audibly. He raised the goblet, and swallowed three great gulps of the sweetened, spiced wine, throat working. Making a face, he dropped the goblet to the carpet.
Vornatti shifted his slippers away from the spreading stain. “If you didn’t want it, all you had to do was give it to Gilly,” Vornatti said, without heat, his mind occupied. “He reclaimed his bastard son? I had heard that Last’s newest wife died of childbed fever and the babe of milksickness.”
“This talk means nothing,” the boy said. “Tell me where to find Last.” He dragged the sword point up to menace Vornatti once more.
“Let’s have less of that,” Vornatti said. “It grows wearisome. I will tell you what you want, for all the good it will do you. Last’s estate is yet ten miles from here. Will you walk it in ice and snow?”
The boy’s face sagged into momentary despair, and then the determined mask slid back into place. He started for the door.
Vornatti caught his arm with a sudden movement, surprising in a man so seemingly infirm. “Stay the night,” Vornatti said. He stroked the boy’s scarred cheek.
The boy jerked free, no longer listening, caught up in his own thoughts, bent on following some inner drive that denied obstruction.
“Gilly,” Vornatti commanded.
Reluctantly, Gilly roused himself to comply, though had he a choice, he’d be relieved to see the boy’s back. Still, obedience was ingrained, and he stepped before the boy, keeping a wary eye on the boy’s sword hand. “Come on then. Humor the old bastard and stay.”
The boy halted, staring at Gilly. “Get out of my way.” Shadows danced in the depths of his eyes, and Gilly stepped out of easy harm’s range. Still, he balked the boy at the door.
Gilly was good at anticipating his Lord’s requests. From the moment that Vornatti smiled at the intruder, Gilly knew he desired the boy. Other intruders had been summarily and unpleasantly dealt with, the pistol fished out from beneath Vornatti’s lap furs, not teased to flushing. With that in the forefront of his thoughts, Gilly had drugged the boy’s negus, the Laudable’s sticky sweetness masked by the honeyed spice of the heated wine. Gilly was surprised the boy still stood. A single mouthful should have been enough to incapacitate one skinny youth.
Still more surprising was the force of the boy’s presence. Gilly found it harder and harder to keep himself blocking the boy’s egress. Only Vornatti’s expression of cupidity and interest kept Gilly still. Vornatti’s mood could shift like the tide; he’d grow bored soon enough with the filthy, bad-tempered lad, but until that moment occurred, Gilly had best obey or suffer Vornatti’s own bad temper.
“I’ll pay you,” Gilly said, inspired. “Enough to rent a hack to Lastrest in the morning.”
The boy put out a hand, palm upward, waiting.
“In the morning,” Gilly said.
His hand clutched the black hilt. “I should trust you after you’ve drugged the wine?”
Gilly saw it now, the slackening mouth, the loosening fingers. The signs he had expected long minutes ago—but the boy was fighting the effects of the drug with the considerable force of his will. Gilly wondered how much longer the boy could stay standing.
“I’m tired, Gilly. Show our guest to a room and be done with it.” Vornatti leaned forward, creaked out of his chair, and reached for his fallen book. “The painted room, mind you.”
Gilly nodded. He bowed to the young savage as if he were truly a guest, and said, “Follow me.”
His back was tense with his concern that the boy was not following, and tense with the cat-feeling that the boy was following, albeit on footsteps too silent to hear. Gilly turned and found the boy paused in the long stone-paved hall.
The boy stared into the great, clouded mirror that hung on the gilded and flocked walls, a spot of uncertain shadow in the midst of rich colors and elaborate hangings. Touching the rippled glass, the boy leaned close, fingered his reflection.
“You are comely enough,” Gilly said, wondering if the boy had ever seen his face in a looking glass before. Despite the jarring notes of sword and accent, Gilly knew the boy was no more of the aristocracy than he himself was. “But it’s no assignation we head to, only rest.”
“There is nothing before me but a rendezvous,” the boy said, his thickening tongue slurring his words. The boy pressed his face against the cool glass, closing his eyes.
Gilly took the boy’s arm, and the boy leaned against him, looked up at him with enormously pupiled eyes. “Have you seen Janus?”
“I have not. Is he fair like Last?”
“Fair,” he agreed on a sigh. He tugged Gilly’s blond tail of hair; his dark-fringed eyes closed, then flickered open in sudden awareness. “Bastard. I’d better get my lunas in the morning.” He shoved Gilly away.
Gilly led the boy away from the mirror, and looked back over his shoulder, expecting to see the boy’s reflection lingering behind, as stubborn as the boy himself.
At the painted room, Gilly unlocked the door, went inside, and lit the gas lamps. The boy stared at the furnishings in a near stupor.
The room was shadowed. The gaslight illumined only a circle the size of a man’s outstretched arms, and the chamber was easily thrice that, if not more. The bed itself was a small room, walled of swagged draperies, embroidered with gilded serpents. Even to Gilly’s eyes, they seemed to undulate in the wavering light; how must they appear to the drugged boy? Thick carpeting underfoot stifled sound, turning each movement into a secretive whisper. Heavy, dense curtains draped the distant walls, though Gilly knew there were no windows behind them, only the murals that gave the room its name. One drape, drawn back, revealed nothing but the image of rushing water, full of movement without progress. This room was a well-appointed prison.
The boy shivered as if he had sensed Gilly’s thought, but headed for the swaddled bed as if for a long-sought rest. Gilly watched the boy clamber up the bed steps and lie down. Only then did the boy release the sword from his grip. It sprawled over the counterpane beside him like a living thing.
Gilly closed the door, drew out the key, and locked it, sealing away the boy and his sword.
The click of the bolt sliding home sounded as final as a headman’s ax in the silent hall. Gilly winced, expecting the boy to rouse, sputtering curses and making futile strikes against the heft of the oaken door, but the moment passed in peace. Tucking the key into his vest pocket, Gilly returned to the library.
Vornatti waited, slumped down in his chair, too worn tonight to make the walk to his chambers without aid.
“The boy?” Vornatti said, without raising his rough-whiskered chin from his chest.
“Caged. Asleep,” Gilly said.
“Good. I’m not inclined to conduct business at this hour.” Vornatti pressed his hands into the arms of the chair, trying to raise himself. Though his face grayed with effort and his hands whitened, his body stayed motionless. Gilly forestalled further effort, slipping the rug from Vornatti’s lap, setting the pistol aside, and, his hands beneath Vornatti’s shoulders, hefted the diminished weight of what had once been a big man. Vornatti fell against Gilly’s side, muttering. “Too much Elysia,” he said.
Excerpted from Maledicte by Lane Robins Copyright © 2007 by Lane Robins. Excerpted by permission.
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Maledicte, by Lane Robins is a dark and lush novel the likes of which I've never read before. It takes place in a fantasy world similar to 1700's France, and the somewhat aristocratic prose fit perfectly with the subject matter-courtly intrigue, revenge, and twisted love affairs. Robins has tremendous writing skill and I was so impressed with how the book unfolded. I have to admit that it's been a while since I've come across words that I didn't know, but in Maledicte I found several, and each time I found one I felt like it was a little mystery that had to be solved, adding to the experience. The main plot of the book involves a young woman named Miranda, who eventually enters into the aristocracy of Antyrre, a crumbling kingdom who has lost a war. Disguised as a man, Miranda becomes a dark cavalier that everyone wants to bed-or run away from-as she is obviously possessed by some sinister force of evil. She has chosen this path to regain her lost love and take vengeance on the man who took him from her. She is aided by a bloodthirsty goddess with whom she had made a dark pact. The goddess, raven winged Ani, has given her some of Her brutal power-including a deadly sword that hungers for blood, and Miranda, who renames herself Maledicte, must struggle to remain in control rather than go into murderous rages and appease the hungry spirit within her. I thought most of the book would be from Maledicte's perspective, but I was surprised to learn that much of it is from the point of view of a handsome young man named Gilley. He is the bound servant of a nobleman, Vornatti, a lecherous old pedophile who takes Miranda in and helps her attain her goal of revenge. Vornatti facilitates her becoming a courtier and gains her access to the man she wants to kill. I didn't see Gilly coming when I picked up the book, but he emerged onto the page and became the heart of the story. Gilley was plucked from the ranks of the poor folk to lead a privileged life as a servant, though the price he pays is steep and disturbing. Despite it all, Gilley is the only character portrayed in the novel-except perhaps the kindly king of Antyrre-with any moral qualms about murder and assassination. The ends justify the means and Maledicte will do anything to accomplish his goal. She, or rather, he, is driven to the brink of madness by the spirit of the goddess inside her. Miranda/Maledicte's background as the daughter of an uncaring drug-addicted whore makes her behavior all too believable and at times cringe-worthy, but it was Gilley who made me believe that redemption was possible. He was the soul of the book for me and kept me connected to the novel when the darkness clouded my eyes. The book is shocking and there is a brutal reality to everything that happens. What would you do to regain your lost love? The depravity that these characters engage in is mind-blowing, and Robins managed to show it, but kept the curtain pulled just enough so that we the reader would not be too repulsed. Instead, I read ever onward, hungrily taking in the scenes and wondering how far Maledicte would go to accomplish her goals and get back her lover. Maledicte is a masterpiece of dark fantasy that will leave you quivering for more and checking for poison in your cup. Drink if you dare and afterward you'll never forget the dark power of twisted love, or the price of revenge. Paul Genesse Author of The Nubian Queen Featured in the Steampunk'd anthology from DAW Books
A good book, but definitely hits a slow spot about 3/4ths of the way through. Push through it, and things will get interesting again!
In a debut fantasy, Robbins introduces the readers to the city of Murne and the court of Antyre, forsaken by the gods and ruled by old aristocracy values. After Miranda’s best friend and companion Janus, the bastard son of the earl of Last and last living blood relative, is kidnapped from the slums to become heir, she is devastated. In her despair, she seeks refuge in the fallen temple of the Black-Winged Ani, the goddess of love and vengeance. The story follows the transformation of the then 15 year old Miranda, from a street smart thief of the Relicts, to an attractive male courtier possessed by Ani and seeking revenge for her lost friend. Maledicte, as she renames herself finds shelter in the home of the old and dissolute Baron Vornatti, another enemy of Last. As she plots her revenge, she trains herself in the skills necessary to navigate the lewd and vile baron as well as the treacherous court-politics, blackmail, dueling, twisted love affairs and murder. Along the way, she finds friendship, loyalty and trust in the baron’s servant Gilly. But her trust only extends so far, and Ani’s possession grows more bloodthirsty every day. A dark and complex plot, as deep as the characters themselves, Robbins creates a compelling storyline, balancing the emotions of love and vengeance through Maledicte’s feeling for both Janus and Gilly and her internal battle with the merciless Ani. Although, at times a little long winded, and high on sexual tension without eloquent release, the complexity of the characters and the storytelling of Robbins create a unique fantasy novel.
This is one of the best fantasy novels I've ever read, right up there with The Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, and the Earth-Sea books. Loved it!
Very dark and atmospheric fantasy setting, with a uniquely done revenge plotline. I thoroughly enjoyed this book until the ending, which I felt was rushed and kind of an afterthought.
This book was a delightful and refreshing read. It is dark, malicious, filled with intrigue and fantasy and yet still manages to fill the reader with a warm feeling at the end. The book is well written, a bit too much charecter driven, and interesting. It explains all the nuances of this diffrent world without being repetitive or boring and is a good plot. Someone said that it reminded them a little too much of the Kushiel seires by Jaqueline Carey (sp?) but i dissagre, yes the two book have female heroins and vengful gods with court intrigue but Maledicta definetly makes itself heard and distinguishes itself from other books. I deffinetly recomend it.
this book was amazing. i've been finding it hard to find well-developed books that don't put me to sleep and i've definitely stumbled upon one here. the twists and turns in the plot kept my attention. i anticipated the ending to be terrible but was pleasantly surprised. i highly recommend this to anyone who loves powerful women and crazy plots
This is an absolutely riveting novel. Robins does an excellent job at developing characters and provides ample plot twists--and the adventure literally flows to the last page. Readers will find themselves empathizing with and really liking the character Maledicte, even when Maledicte plays the part of someone less than likeable. And Maledicte himself is a stroke of brilliance as a character. He starts out as the woman Miranda, but through the transformation into a courtier and a man (and because of the heavy use of the pronoun 'he'), Maledicte becomes a wonderfully androgynous character, gender lines blurred, and I found myself thinking of him as simply a PERSON. It was extremely refreshing. I highly highly recommend this book.
In the Kingdom of Antyre, the Earl of Last needs an heir to begat his aristocratic grandson. He selects his teenage offspring Janus, born on the wrong side of the sheets and raised in the worst slums of Murne. Janus¿ girlfriend fifteen years old Miranda is appalled when her long time companion and lover is taken from her and vows to be at his side after she kills his patrician sire.------------------------- Knowing a female cannot just walk about Murne by herself especially a young woman trying to move about in the upper crust circles, Miranda needs a disguise so she turns herself into a male noble and gains entrance into the home of wastrel Baron Vornatti, who detests Last. The Baron and his servant Gilly train the eager Miranda in what she needs to know about treachery amidst the debauched aristocracy. When the Black-Winged Goddess Ani completes the metamorphosis of Miranda from love sick teen to deadly avenger, the young female becomes Maledicte, whose goal remains the same with just more victims to dispatch.---------- This is a terrific fantasy due to the powerful emotions of the lead character. The audience will follow the capers of this seemingly innocent urchin who willingly becomes an expendable pawn of the violent Goddess of Love, as the deity and the girl share the same traits of deep love and even deeper hate. The story line focuses on Miranda¿s obsessive efforts to be with her Janus so much so that she becomes more and less than human too achieve her goal. Readers will appreciate Lane Robins¿ character driven dark fantasy.------------- Harriet Klausner