Sunday, January 3, 2016
Children of the Shaman: a Journey through Ice and Time by Jessica Rydill - paperback edition
Release date: December 11, 2015
Subgenre: Fantasy, Steampunk
An ancient power returns.
A world is trapped in time and snow.
The only hope: a young outcast.
In the remote interior of Lefranu someone - or something - has been killing railway workers. Driving a tunnel under the forest, they have started to die, horribly. Yuda Vasilyevich, a shaman, is sent to investigate. Yuda brings with him the teenage children he deserted when they were small: spikey Annat, a shaman like her father, and bookish Malchik, who has not forgotten his father’s mistreatment of their mother.
When Malchik is drawn into the underworld, Yuda and Annat set out to find him; so begins a perilous journey into a world of ice, with danger ahead and an implacable enemy behind them. Only they can solve the mystery and defeat the power of the Cold One.
A world of snow. The sky was shimmering white, but sealed like a lid; though the opalescent ground stretched into the distance, Annat sensed that the horizon was nearer than it seemed. The whole place could have been tucked into a cupboard drawer, or stored inside a child’s music-box. And yet, at the same time, it was infinite, its boundary stretching beyond time. Annat shivered as its chill drew in upon her, curling around her limbs like fingers of
mist. Her own breath misted in slow clouds before her face, and she kept utterly still, knowing that the Genius of the place was poring over her as if she were a book, searching for the secret word that would spill out her weakness...
Annat’s head jerked up.
‘Sleep well?’ asked Yuda.
It was dusk. Hurricane lamps were alight down the length of the train’s roof, giving out a pale, glow-worm light.
‘I had a shaman’s dream,’ said Annat.
‘Tell it to me later. We’re coming into Axar. When we stop, I want you to find Malchik and tell him to go to the guards’ van. I’ll meet you back at the engine in half an hour.’
‘Okay, Mister,’ said Annat, subdued by the dream.
‘Don’t let it worry you,’ said Yuda. ‘I’ve stopped bothering about my dark dreams. The future isn’t fixed.’
‘It saw me,’ said Annat. He took her forlorn hand.
‘As long as you’ve got me, girl, I won’t let anything happen to you.’
‘That’s quite a promise,’ said Scorpion.
The train was pulling into the dark streets of Axar. Spires and domes loomed blue against the tinted sky like shadows on a rose window. The locomotive blew a column of sparks and steam as it barged between the crooked houses. Metal magic, it rolled easily on the dim quicksilver of the tracks, its pistons pounding like the valves of a huge heart. There was a
rhythm in the beat, a rhythm you could dance to, stamping your feet. They passed under the shadow of the Dom where the Doxoi worshipped, its pinnacles carved from solid night. Scents drifted in, of sewers and incense and baking. Then the station engulfed them with its white arc lights, and the pounding of the train became a hollow throbbing that echoed from the vaults. The locomotive braked smoothly in an expulsion of white steam, and the carriages bumped gently together as their brakes cut in.
‘Half an hour,’ Yuda said to Annat, and sprang lightly down to the platform, landing in a crouch. As he headed for the rear of the train, Annat slipped over the edge and let herself drop to the ground. There were lamps lit inside the carriages. The dismounting travellers jostled her as they unloaded their bags. Annat wandered along the train, peering in through
the yellow-lighted windows. Faces looked out at her, wan as corpses in the pale light. Half an hour, she repeated to herself.
Jessica Rydill writes fantasy and collects Asian Ball Jointed Dolls, or BJD. At an average height of twenty inches tall, they take up a lot of room and can unnerve visitors. Many of the dolls are based on characters from her books.
Jessica's novels are a cross-genre mash-up; they embrace fantasy with mediaeval warlords, and steampunk adventure with lightning-wielding shamans. Magic is used to solve daily problems, with unexpected results, and a myriad of underworlds and other dimensions are only a short step away.