Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Secret Atlas

A Secret Atlas by Michael A. Stackpole, 2005, Bantam Spectra

And now it is time for another book by my favorite author. This one is starting off a new trilogy. The setting is heroic fantasy, but with some differences. First, magic isn't as prevalent, or handled in the same way, as other popular fantasy series. Second, the political setting has many intentional similarities to Europe in the "age of discovery" period of the late 14th through 16th centuries. Two of our main characters are part of a family of map makers, the most famous map makers in the world. This sounds rather boring, but the fact that new maps can only be drawn after people explore new areas of the world provides the key to get the adventures started.

Of course, as a Stackpole story, the internal politics of the existing nations are enough to fill many volumes. Those of you who enjoy Machiavellian twists and turns among the rulers and their pawns will find much to enjoy here. I also like how there is an obvious bureaucracy that follows its own rules, which is a nice touch of realism while allowing for even more plot threads.

The basic plot is that Keles and Jorim Anturasi, the grandsons of the world's most famous mapmaker, are sent on voyages to discover more of the world so their granfather can improve on his maps. While all of this is going on, there are significant political machinations between two of the main powers in the world, and the world may be in danger from even darker forces. This goes on for a good 500 pages or so. The last few chapters, however, really throw a spanner in the works, as there are a number of sudden changes to set up the next book. Overall, it was good and I enjoyed it, and I look forward to seeing where things go next.

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