The Alchemist’s Code
Ace, Mar 2008, $14.00
Maestro Nostradamus is many things; he is physician to the Venetian doge, a clairvoyant, an astrologist, and a spell weaver. His reputation is so great that he and his apprentice Alfeo Zeno live in grandeur on the top floor of the Mansion of Alvise Barbolano.
Zuanbattista Sanudo and his wife Eva Morosini come to Nostradamus to ask him to use his clairvoyance skills to locate their missing daughter Graziaa. The Maestro has a vision in his crystal ball; he tells Alfeo to go to a certain place at a certain time in order to find Grazia. He not only finds her, he sees her new husband Danese Dolfin, a gigolo who has done many unsavory things. The Council of Ten including the Doge summons Nostradamus to their meeting place. They direct him to uncover the identity of a spy who is selling secrets to a foreign government. The operative Algol has written letters that were intercepted but are in a code that no one has broken. The Maestro tries to decipher the code, but he realizes he is under magical attack which leads Alfeo to the home of Sanudo; he finds the abode under the spell of a curse. Alfeo tries to lift the curse using magic only to catch the eye of the Chief Inquisitioner whose aide accuses the maestro’s apprentice of murder and practicing the black arts.
When one thinks of Dave Duncan, normally fans would think of an entertaining superior fantasist. However, his Alchemist saga (see THE ALCHEMIST’S APPRENTICE) shares the same quality of excellence, but is different with a fantasy flavoring to a historical saga. Readers join the Maestro and his apprentice in trying to figure out who the spy is, why someone the hero knew was murdered, and what object caused the curse. Told by Alfeo, the audience sees through his awed eyes how his master is a Machiavellian wizard who pulls people into his way of thinking.