In a world rebuilding after global mechanized war, chaos and ethnic tensions rule. City-states like Blightcross prosper under dictatorships built upon oil production. Refugees flock to the city-state to find work in the massive oil refineries. The black blood of Blightcross is replacing...
Capra Jorassian: A Valoii soldier on the run. She's done with enforcing her country's occupation, and just wants to relax and eat good food in Prasdim. In order to do that, she has to come up with enough cash to bribe officials back home to call off the manhunt for her. She is short, wiry, unstoppable, and claustrophobic. She's not sure whether or not she actually has a conscience, and is rather confused at times.
Dannac: An Ehzeri whose family has little to no magic capability. He's also blind, thanks to Valoii attacks on his people. But that didn't stop him from somehow acquiring a special device that allows him to see . . .A rogue even among his own people, Dannac fights for the highest bidder and has taken to being Capra's muscle. Her knack for finding big money is all the convincing he needs to overlook Capra's Valoii army tattoo.
Noro Heverliss: Helverliss is an academic, philosopher, and artist. A resident of Blightcross since it had briefly become a vogue hangout for upstart intellectuals, Noro has stayed there and functioned as a lone, brave critic of Sevari's regime. He owns a book shop, but most of his existence and work is funded by a bourgeois patron. He suffers from major depression, and is one of the few to be able to weave vihs into visual art. His life achievement is a painting titled "Akhli and the Shadows," which is a revolutionary magically-infused piece of modern art that destroys old religious interpretations. The painting is so powerful, in fact, that Sevari had confiscated it in an effort to claim that power. While Sevari doesn't exactly approve of Helverliss, he allows the troublesome artist to live in an effort to avoid criticism from intellectual circles and appear more open than he actually is.
Till Sevari: The mad dictator of Blightcross. At one point, Sevari might have had noble intentions in liberating Blightcross from Tamarck rule. But war and absolute power have turned him insane.
Vasi: An Ehzeri with much magical ability. She works in Sevari's occult research department, while her brother, Rovan, works as a labourer in the oil refinery. Both are there to send Blightcross' big money back to their family. Not only does she look after her brother, but watches over the safety of other workers too--to a fault . . .
Blightcross: Mega-industrialized city-state ruled by a neurotic fascist. This desert portion of Naartland is plagued with industrial waste and even naturally-occurring (we think . . .) radiation. Despite this, workers of all ethnicities flock there to work in the oil industry. Previously a failing Tamarck colony, Great Leader Till Sevari liberated it in an overnight revolution and installed his own system of vertical trade unions. Tamarck as of late had warmed considerably to the new regime, coincidentally after it had become a military power with the highest output of fuel in the world.
Naartland: An isolated island far from the main continent. Previously inconsequential, with the death of magic as a main source of power and the rise of industry and oil, Naartland is now where much of th world's money is flowing after the war.
Yahrein: This was a main instigator in the global war. It neighbours desert territory that has been disputed for centuries between the Valoii and the Ehzeri. Yahrein was one of the first industrialized nations, and nearly exterminated the Valoii. Now it is a broken puppet of its conquerors.
Prasdim: A peaceful small nation. It's warm and situated next to an inland sea. It's one of those nations with high cultural contributions that has been passed around empires for millenia, while the people just shrug and enjoy their nice weather, superior art, and little else. It has become a popular vacation destination.
Bhagovan Republic: The Bhagovan Republic of Arnhas balances the power now held by the kingdom of Tamarck and its newly subjugated allies. It was a socially backward nation until a worker's revolt turned it into the world's first collectivized superpower, led by adherents to the newly-concocted principles of Bhagovanism. Without their help, Tamarck would never have been able to bring down Yahrein's campaign of genocide. While those outside this nation view it as a frightening police-state, nobody really knows what life is like within its borders. Unless, of course, someone is desperate enough to become one of their foreign operatives.
Tamarck: An old, sprawling, and powerful kingdom. It covers most of the Northern part of the main continent and, after the war, increased its reach to the equatorial countries. Their monarchy is known for being rather unattractive and is prone to all sorts of rumours, such as the King actually being a child-eating lizard.
Valoii: An ethnic group situated in disputed territory. Until the war, they inhabited neighbouring countries and were valued (or sometimes ridiculed, even hated) for their disinterest in magic and their skills in metalwork. Highly attuned to the earth, they rejected most religious interpretations of sacred texts, as their matriarch Queen Tyan Mizkovizian had ten-thousand years prior. After their near extermination at the hand of Yahrein, they were given their own nation--Mizkov. These are a progressive, pragmatic people who easily move beyond outmoded ways, and are the second nation in history to grant women complete equality--women, as well as men, must serve in the military. Everyone is a soldier. Tamarck now protects them and takes advantage of their technological savvy.
Ehzeri: An ethnic group distantly related to the Valoii. They have inhabited the same desert for ten-thousand years, and have kept magic alive by virtue of their complex family organization. Whether by lack of faith or something else, magic dwindled in every other population--the intense family bonds of the Ehzeri made them immune to whatever had sapped that power. Still, social changes associated with modernization have left weaker families unable to maintain their power, and young, magically-impaired Ehzeri have little choice but to leave their homeland and work as labourers. They have a deep hatred for the Valoii, since they now occupy Ehzeri homelands. They frequently attack the nation's borders, and this constant threat from powerful magic drives Valoii technological advancement.
The Bhagovan Party: This is the worker's party that had overthrown the ruling class of Arnhas. They are notable for collectivizing the nation's significant agricultural resources, and granting equal rights to all citizens. They are also known for industrial sabotage, espionage, and being rather mean to outsiders. If not for this powerhouse, Tamarck would rule the world.
The Shield Party: Great Leader Till Sevari formed this political party after a successful midnight coup. Together with his friend, Iermo Juvihern, Sevari rallied the mismatched groups of peasants who inhabited the colony and formed a system of vertical trade unions to transform the failing nation into an industrial giant. The Party controls all media, commerce, and resources.
Vihs: Vihs is the word for the magical abilities most languages use. It translates to "work." It has been shortened in most conversation from the term "Vihs-Draaf."
Archon: Archons are legendary creatures spoken about in various religions. They have wings, are said to judge and execute in the same breath, and were said to have kept mankind safe from otherworldly threats. Nobody believes they actually exist--except the Ehzeri. The believe in them because certain Ehzeri have the ability to turn into archons--but often at a price of their own sanity. Most cannot control the Archon's bloodlust, so they are only used in dire circumstances. Otherwise, the lucky Ehzeri who has one in them is tasked with keeping it dormant.
The Clocktower: The clocktower is one of Sevari's big projects and a point of pride for Blightcross. Symbolically it's not good or bad, but merely a symbol of modernism. The clock mechanism is precise, it has purpose, and it works unrelentingly. On the surface, it's beautiful and embodies all the positive aspects of modernism. The mechanism inside may be perfection, but there are instances of insanity also locked within the tower.
There's nothing especially offensive in this novel, except one expletive I had devised from the fictional cultures in the book. It's vulgar and awful, but aside from that, provided the young adult can parse dense intellectual subjects while reading a fast-paced adventure, it should be fine for anyone.
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