Speak To The Devil
Tor May 25 2010, $27.99
On the world Dobtov, the power of the nobles is fading due to a rise of nationalism and growing technology replacing magic as obsolescent. Still many of the aristocracy like those in Jorgany retain power and use mercenaries to add to their own soldiers when battles take place
Cardinal Zdenek orders Lancer Anton Magnus to come see him immediately. Anton is fearful that he may be accused of heresy for a ruse he arranged with his brother Wulfgang pretending to use magic or trysting with married aristocrats. Anton is not a fool to leave the Cardinal waiting so he quickly leaves the warm embrace of Baroness Nadezda Radovan to ride helter smelter to see what the powerful Cardinal demands of him.
Fearing an invasion from the Wends, Zdenek shocks the Lancer when he offers him an earldom Cardice through marriage to the previous late lord’s daughter Madlenka if he takes charge of the strategic fortress Castle Gallant and thwarts the invaders. Ironically the opportunity was made by the Cardinal because he believes Anton is a magic practitioner. He does not correct Zdenek’s misconception, but instead Anton discusses the situation with Wulfgang, who encourages him to take command of the fortress and the people; anything else would leave him with a powerful enemy rather than a powerful supporter.
Although Dave Duncan places his saga on planet Dobtov, the author makes his setting appear to be medieval Europe though he imagines a new nation in the midst of a tumultuous period of dramatic change. As technology has begun to supersede magic and altering religious belief systems as a consequence, the Speakers remain hidden in plain sight and still talk with saints or the devil depending on which dogma they believe in but Wulf believes it is the Saints who help him travel through limbo and gives him certain powers that the Church believes are Satanic. The changing of the old guard refreshes the tale. Anton is the focus of the story line, but Wulfgang steals the show as a seventeen year old in love with his new sister-on-law and recognized as a powerful Speaker by many, which places his life in jeopardy. Mr. Duncan showcases his world-building, character development and plot creativity in this entertaining fantasy.