1/09/2011. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy
Soul Of Fire (Magical British Empire book 2) by Sarah A. Hoyt. pub: Bantam Spectra. 435 page paperback. Price: $ 6.99 (US), $ 8.99 (CAN) ISBN: 978-0-553-58967-2.
check out websites: www.bantamdell.com and http://sarahahoyt.com
In the first book, ‘Heart Of Light’, Peter Farewell and assorted accomplices and enemies are hunted through Africa as they pursue the magical jewel of that name. In this sequel, ’Soul of Fire’, Peter is by himself at first, looking all over India for the other jewel, a ruby called the Soul of Fire. Together, these two gems can harness all the magical power on Earth. Both stories are set in a magical Victorian empire and India is under the magical Raj.
Peter is a were-dragon, a rare breed, but while weres are scarce in England and keep quiet, they abound in India. There are were-tigers, were-monkeys and were-elephants. English law states that they should be hunted down and executed and there is a special division of the army, the Gold Coats, for that purpose but in fact, the law is not strictly enforced. As in our real world British Empire, the rulers know that interfering too much with local customs only brings revolt.
Miss Sofie Warington has the ruby, passed down through her family for generations, but it has been broken at some point in the past and is powerless until repaired. Sofie has just been summoned back from a ladies school in England to marry Raj Ajith, who has a kingdom in the north of the country. Little does she know that he is actually King of the Tigers. The Raj has insisted that the ruby be part of Sofie’s dowry for he knows that with the blood sacrifice of a virgin from the family to whom it was entrusted long ago by Charlemagne, it can be repaired. Great power will be his once he murders his wife and gets her blood all over the jewel, the cad. Sofie’s parents are broke and her Dad has been corrupted by black magic, so he is happy to hand her over as a bride, though unaware of the blood sacrifice bit. In trying to run away from marriage to an ugly brute for she, too, is ignorant of his real desires, Sofie falls off a balcony. Happily, Peter the dragon is on hand and saves her. They are then pursued across India by were-tigers, were-monkeys and other weirdoes.
As in the first book, the narrative point of view switches between several leading characters so that a chapter can always end on a sort of cliff-hanger, either a bit of action or the narrator making a big decision. It is just as readable as ‘Heart Of Light’ and equally full of romance, adventure, intrigue and, to be fair, good characters. There are nice touches of parallel history, too. Locke, Lavoisier, Descartes and Hume are mentioned as great mages of the past, for example. There was an Indian Mutiny in which the weres rose up and fought back which largely led to the laissez-faire attitude to them current at the time of the story. The real Indian Mutiny, if I recall correctly, also led to a more relaxed attitude by the British toward local customs. Sarah A. Hoyt has done her homework and presents a pretty authentic picture of a British Empire with magic thrown in and a realistic portrait of India, too.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable bit of escapism, skilfully executed. Due to the heavy romantic content, I think young ladies will like it even more than grumpy middle-aged men like myself and there is more to come. Part three is called ‘Heart And Soul’ and I look forward to reading it soon.
Add SFcrowsnest.com daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...
Stephen Hunt's novels - USA