Monday, August 21, 2017

Rotten Magic (The Artifice Mage Saga prequel) by Jeffrey Bardwell

Release date: August 9, 2017
Subgenre: Steampunk fantasy 

About Rotten Magic:


Devin will do anything to win. Even resort to magic.

Devin competes to become the best artificer in the mage phobic Iron Empire. Who needs magic when you can master the art of machinery? The other apprentices envy his genius and skills . . . especially Benson. Every apprentice hones their craft building and fighting in crude prototypes of powered armor. Some add frills, others barbs or horns. When Devin transforms himself into a mechanical dragon to slaughter the competition, Benson steps into the role of dragon slayer.

But Devin harbors a secret as he claws his way to the top of the Artificer's Guild: he's a mage. These new abilities are thrilling and frightening, and the voices more so. How long can Devin be content wearing a steel dragon mask when the seductive promise of true arcane power whispers in his ear?

Experience the novella prequel to the Artifice Mage Saga: a fantasy steampunk brawl of metal vs. magic where sorcery is bloody, science is greasy, and nobody's hands are clean.



Do they suspect? Devin thought, stealing furtive glances at the Black Guards. Do they know? Are they waiting, lurking, gathering evidence against me? The Black Guards kept the streets safe. His mother had always told him and his sister that. If you're ever in any trouble, find a guard. They will shelter you and punish the wicked. They protect us against killers, against thieves, against those whose crimes are too horrible to name, and most of all, they protect us from the mages.
Black Guards hunting us everywhere, the mage growled. It is the magic users who need protection from them.
The guards are merely the sweepers of the city machine, the artificer smiled,cleaning garbage off the streets.
Garbage? the mage cried.
Just like every other criminal, the artificer said, crossing his arms.
Devin looked at the calluses on his hands. But I'm not a criminal. I'm an artificer.
Neither voice in his mind replied as the youth looked up at the glorious symbol of the city's artifice princes. The ancient Guild Hall of Artificers rose above adjacent more recent buildings like a quiet old man kneeling amongst a crowd of garish babies. There was an unassuming grandeur to those time-stained, smooth granite walls. The masters took pains to preserve the aesthetics of the outside even as they implemented every new gadget and technology inside, but always with restraint and style. As Master Huron always said: “It is not just our duty to build, but to inspire. Why can't a machine be beautiful as well as functional?”
Drusilla was waiting by the gates of the Guild Hall as she did every morning. His steadfast best friend slung a welding apron over one shoulder. The scent of the wild forest lingered on the leather. How a gal from the heart of the city managed to smell like moss and elderberries, Devin never knew. The girl teased a stick from her hair and smiled as he approached.
Hear about the new Mark 3 Drake Armor?” Drusilla asked, walking alongside him.
New mechanical armor? Since when?“No,” Devin said.
There was a demonstration in the market yesterday. I tried to find you, but you went and vanished again.” Drusilla laughed. “Still working on that secret project, eh?”
Every chance I get.” Devin smiled. “It's going to be good enough to be my journeyman's piece. It's going to change the world.”
Not like this new armor,” Drusilla shook her head, eyes flashing. “It was awesome, Dev. The tiny gears and servos in the fingers are top rate. The precision. The sheer artistry. They had a man dressed in the suit knitting a little scarf with tiny, little needles. Knitting with a suit of mechanical armor. Those gauntlets are the size of your head. Fantastic!”
Knitting? Really?” Devin chuckled. “Are they going to chase down thieves with tiny, hand knit handcuffs, now?”
She clucked. “Even you have to admit it's impressive. Any mech gauntlets we create can barely grasp a cheap, wooden sword.”
Devin smiled. “Feh, swords. I prefer claws.”

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About Jeffrey Bardwell:

Jeffrey Bardwell is an ecologist with a Ph.D. who loves fantasy, amphibians, and reptiles. The author devours fantasy and science fiction novels, is most comfortable basking near a warm wood stove, and has eaten a bug or two. The author populates his own novels with realistic, fire breathing lizards. These dragons are affected by the self-inflicted charred remains of their environment, must contend with the paradox of allometric scaling, and can actually get eaten themselves.

The author lives on a farm, is perhaps overfond of puns and alliterations, and is a gigantic ham. When not in use, he keeps his degrees skinned and mounted on the back wall of his office.

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