Tor: Starscape. (The Grand Illusion, Bk. 1). Oct. 2021. 608p. ISBN 9781250777409. $29.99. SF
Modesitt’s (“Saga of Recluce” series) gas-lamp fantasy, the first in a planned series, is a story about a political coup staged from the inside. The fascinating multiracial cast of characters includes bodyguard Steffan Dekkard, an isolate (a person unaffected by empaths); fellow bodyguard Avraal Ysella, an empath of great skill; and councilman Axel Obreduur, whom Steffan and Avraal have been hired to protect. At its heart the novel is an examination of the power with which politicians and governments can wreck the lives of citizens, and it soon becomes clear that Steffan, Avraal, and Axel are targets in a deep political, and murderous, plot. Steffan steps up to keep his boss alive and falls in love with Avraal, all the while reaching for a brighter and more dangerous future than he ever expected, with the knowledge that if he fails, the entire country will ultimately suffer.
VERDICT Readers will be caught up in Modesitt’s world, which is just close enough to reality to make the lessons feel real, and just fantastic enough to provide distance and interest. The gas lamp setting will draw in plenty of steampunk readers, while anyone who likes to delve into the way worlds work will be riveted.
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