- Mass Market Paperback: 936 pages
- Publisher: Baen Books (3 Sept. 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0743471474
- ISBN-13: 978-0743471473
- Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 4.3 x 17.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,364,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Shadow of the Lion (Heirs of Alexandria) Mass Market Paperback – 3 Sep 2003
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"The prolific Lackey and cohorts Flint and Freer whip up a luscious bouillabaisse of politics, intrigue, love and black magic. . . . The authors' use of contemporary American vernacular . . . keeps the pages turning fast. . . ."
"[A] top pick . . . fast-paced action and complex, believable settings."
"[A] massive concoction of alternate history, high fantasy, and historical romance . . . rich plotting, vivid characterization, and splendid evocation of Renaissance ethics and culture should make readers turn all the pages."
." . . a sweeping alternate history. . . . The authors deftly wield the juxtaposition of fantasy and history into a finely crafted story."
"A luscious bouillabaisse of alternate history, high fantasy, and historical romance."
As the bronze statue of the great winged lion stares out across the Piazza San Marco, a failed magician must find courage. An orphaned outcast must find his strength. A reluctant prince must choose between duty and pleasure. All will be consumed by an evil greater than they have ever known.See all Product description
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Following on from the review above, I have been unable to find Much Fall of Blood and The Great Doom's Image, have they been released yet? Or are they by other authors?
Also - although A mankind Witch was written last, it should be read 2nd, to get the correct chronological order of events in the books.
In a parallel world where magic is real, but is fundamentally just a form of prayer, huge political pressure comes to bear on the independant city of Venice. And this is the home of the brothers Marco and Benito Valdosta, last scions of one of the oldest noble houses of Venice, who have been hiding from assassins in the swamps and slums since orphaned as young children, and now almost fully grown. They don't want to get mixed up in the politics that killed their mother, but it seems they have little choice. The Lion of Venice may sleep, but its Shadow is bringing together an unlikely group of heroes. The brothers Valdosta will find their fates caught up with Kat, a smuggler struggling to preserve her own house's reputation (which house just happens to have a vendetta against Valdosta); the reliable canal girl Maria, and her lover, the deadly mercenary Caesaro Aldonte; Manfred, the youngest wastrel nephew of the Holy Roman Emperor, sent incognito among the Knight of the Trinity (a religious order much resented in Italy) into Venice, along with his protector Erik, the tomohawk wielding Icelander who must both protect and reform his royal charge. And then we have Chiano, the marshdwelling mage whose past is lost to him, and his brainwashed former assassin Harrow, and even Petro Dorma, the rising star of Venetian Politics and head of the secret police. All must learn to work to a common goal, if the Lion of Venice is to be awoken in time to hold back the forces of the demon Chernobog. But Chernobog already has agents loose within the city...
This is the first novel in a new 5-part series set in an alternate history in which the christian church, rather than suppressing the knowledge of magic, tolerates it within certain limits. (As one of the authors pointed out when discussing the book, the early church didn't deny the existence of magic, just said that Christian magic was more powerful). The books are all named after Shakespearian quotes: After this will come This Rough Magic, A Mankind Witch, Much Fall of Blood and The Great Doom's Image. Each book will focus on a different group of our heroes. (This book is mostly Marco's and Kat's, while Rough magic will focus on Benito and Maria, and Mankind Witch on Eric and Manfred). This means that this book stands very well on its own, and the others should do the same.
The book is set in 1537-8, over 1000 years after the divergence of our histories, and some of the differences are only hinted at in the text (the combined Viking/Native American nation is a nice touch). Europe is under great tension. The Christian church is divided into two factions - the germanic Pauline tradition, with the familiar intolerance, militant orders and inquisitions that existed in our history at this time (but which also has a very real evil to fight), and the more modern Petrine sect, based on compassion and forgiveness but with a tendency to complacency and relying on the Paulines to hold the demons at bay. The Holy Roman Empire, and the kingdoms of Hungary and Lithuania are in an uneasy balance. This is not helped by the fact that the Lithuanian king Jagellon has been possessed by the demon Chernobog for decades. Now Chernobog has decided to destroy the neutral city-state of Venice, a key to Mediterranian trade, and so precipitate a war between his two rivals, and also setting the two halves of the Church at one anothers' throats. And only our group of ill-prepared youngsters have the potential to awaken the one being in Venice as powerful as any Demon - the Winged Lion of Saint Mark.
A fair part of this book (mostly the early sections about the Valdosta brothers) is taken from Mercedes Lackey's previous work in the Merovingian Nights series, but it soon diverges from the original as other characters are introduced. (According to Eric Flint, 60,000 words from the 80,000 of Mercedes Lackey's original work were included in the final 290,000 word draft.) However the new material is enough to make two decent sized books by itself!
Overall, this is a book I heartily recommend - just make sure you've got lots of room on your bookshelf for the rest when they come out!
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
What makes this world different is that magic works, at least sometimes. The plot does not necessarily follow history. The future of this world is not known by reading a history of Europe.
All three of the collaborating authors are known for their memorable characters, You are sure to find someone to root for.
I have all of the series, including both (completely different) Vol 2's and have been know to re-read them.
This novel is long. But it never flags. The pace is headlong, but the descriptions are clear, crisp and detailed. And the characters are wonderful, especially the little people, the spearcarriers, and the supporting cast.
A case in point is the use of a certain Basque priest as a main supporting character. It plays great without knowing who that character is based on, but it adds piquancy indeed to know that the character is really St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.
The magic isn't intrusive where it shouldn't be, and is organic... that is, it doesn't just come from anywhere, and there are clear rules about how it works.
The magic isn't nearly as important to the plot as the convoluted and terrifyingly complex politics in the story. Remember, this is the same part of Europe that was still reading Macchiavelli as a "How To" textbook.
I read snippets before publication, and I can't wait for the next one. The collaboration of Lackey, Freer and Flint is greater than each of them alone. And since Lackey and Flint are known for being extremely good on their own, and Freer is too, just not as well known, that's saying a lot.
Buy this book. You will be swept away.
The Bananaslug. at Baen's Bar.
Many will do a book report on this first - of - the - series. I simply say I liked it enough to intentionally buy it twice. I would be surprised should anyone want their money back.
The book is really an alternative history and will, I think be enjoyed by people who like relatively lightweight alternative history. It creates a world where the Library at Alexandria was not burned and the wisdom and knowledge contained there was saved by Hypatia, the courageous librarian who was unable to protect the library in our world . (Hypatia is obviously a favorite of Ms Lackey's .since she 'featured' in The Ship Who Searched'). The theory is that the Library contained much arcane knowledge and that as the result of saving it Hypatia was beatified and set up a tolerant and liberal Christian denomination with St John Chrystomenes (sp?) (who in real life was, I believe, dismissed as a crazy fanatic). In addition the knowledge of and practice of magic is very much a part of this world. Furthermore there is a substantial pagan presence. Some of these pagans are Mages. There is a group called the Strega (again , not well explained, they seem to be the equivalent of gypsies), whom the Church - or certain factions in it - are oppressing. Many of the Strega work magic in some form.
In this sixteenth century Venice the Church has factions who follow St Peter (the Petrines) and those who follow St Paul (the Paulines) and some Hypatians. The exact beliefs of these factions are never explained - which probably doesn't really matter since the book is complicated enough without that - except that, by not going into that kind of detail the book may lose alternative history fans. The Church is a powerful and complex force in this world's politics as it was in the real world - but I missed just where each faction stood. Certainly the politics of Europe, woven through with magic and a powerful Lithuanian demon ARE pretty detailed - and complicated- as are the political factions within Venice herself. I found that reading the book took some effort because of the very rather labyrinth like plot but, having made the effort I finally got caught up in it ...only to find it had finished!
The reason that I don't think Ms Lackey wrote much of the book is that one of her strengths is her ability to make the reader care about a character, or small group of characters. In this book the two principal characters are orphaned brothers Marco and Benito. They are pawns of shadowy puppet masters - who, again, the reader never knows much about. However, apart from the fact that Marco is fairly saint like and Benito is a street rat,and they are important in a 'great scheme', I never really felt I knew much about ' how they ticked'. We spend a lot of time with Ceasare, a shady character who is a spy, assassin and mercenary . . .but his character is deliberately unreadable.. . Only one character comes across clearly; an ambitious courtesan called Francesca. We understand her, she is highly intelligent, beautiful and a survivor. She also seems as if she is the only person who has control over her life! Perhaps the book should have been about her!
I do not feel that regular Mercedes Lackey fans will necessarily enjoy this book. In fact, I would recommend this book only if you like dense, alternative universe stuff (though it isn't good enough for an alternative history purist) with less characterization that we have come to expect from Ms Lackey and (not enough) rather erudite magic.
The length of the volume allows for significant character development and plot twists galore (and medieval Italian politics has nothing but plot twists!). This also means the first 50-100 pages of the book kind of drags. That's okay, work your way through that, and you'll be entranced. I finished this sizable volume in less than 3 nights of reading... That good, really.
The ending wraps up a little too neatly, quickly, and nicely, something of a Lackey trademark, but it's hard to complain about this meaty and interesting story.