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The Scrivener's Tale
by Fiona MacIntosh
Harper/Voyager; $14.99; 528pp
Release Date: March 26, 2013

This novel is set in the world of Morgravia in which MacIntosh set a previous series called The Quickening. This novel is a stand-alone tale and is not going to be a part of a series.

I enjoyed this immensely.

The story begins in two worlds: current–day Paris and ancient Morgravia. There are two hands full of characters to keep track of and they are all wonderfully delineated and fleshed out.

There’s bookseller Gabriel who, though English, has lived in Paris many years following the tragic death of his wife, son and unborn child in a bad car wreck. On his birthday, one of his store’s more interesting customers, Monsieur Reynaud, comes to him with a gift; a very lovely, ancient scrivener’s tool - a swan feather quill with curious symbols etched on the shaft of the feather. He invites Gabriel for a birthday drink. When the two sit at the café, Reynaud tells Gabriel he’s a physician with a peculiar patient named Angelina who says she must be killed to move on with her life. Reynaud wants Gabriel to help him because, in Gabriel’s previous “life,” he was a clinical psychologist.

Very reluctantly, Gabriel takes on Angelina’s case. Reynaud hovers protectively but the two finally talk without his overbearing presence. Angelina, who is practically mute in front of Reynaud, tells Gabriel a lot. Later she shows up at Gabriel’s flat without her companion and persuades Gabriel she needs him (in several ways).

Angelina manipulates Gabriel through his fears and dreams and beyond his commonsense he inadvertently does what she desires and kills her—which releases her to return to her real life—in Morgravia. Angelina’s death also transports Gabriel to Morgravia where he becomes trapped in his own body when a demon possesses him minutes after he shows up. Gabriel is able to hide his presence from the two demons. But the poor man is taken for a quite a scenic/graphic tour of Morgravia by the demon and his cohort—his assistant Aphra (aka Angelina…)

In Morgravia: we have the isolated (buff and handsome) warrior Cassien who has been raised with wolves (but not AS a wolf!) in the Wild: a member of a very select Brotherhood whose sworn duty is to protect the crown of Morgravia. They are intensely loyal to the royal family and have highly developed fighting and other skills.

 Cassien actually has a female wolf who is his companion/friend named Romaine. Cassien’s skills are tested routinely by a member of the Brotherhood named Loup to keep Cassien in tiptop shape. Cassien lives alone in an isolated forest few visit; being tested and trained for an as yet unknown task. One day, Loup shows up with a mysterious Master Fynch who takes Cassien out of the Wild at last and into the greater world of Morgravia. His task is at hand.

Once Cassien leaves the Wild the adventures hit hard and fast. Master Fynch sets him on his way but does not accompany him on his travels. Upon reaching the town of Orkyld , Cassien is lucky to meet with a young orphan lad named Hamelyn whose very observant skills make him extremely handy to have around as a buffer between Cassien’s naiveté and the world at large.

The person Cassien must protect is the current queen of Morgravia, Florentyna; a cautious, well-loved and unmarried ruler not given to hysteria or impulsiveness. No, that’s reserved for her younger, flamboyant sister Darcelle who can’t wait to marry the King of Cipres, Tamas.

Of course, there is a threat to all this. The evil demon Cyricus who’s been nominally trapped in the Void has finally escaped with his slave/lover/assistant Aphra and as mentioned above is using Gabriel and others as convenient modes of transportation and disguise as he works towards his desire. Cyricus has vowed to destroy The Wild and especially the Thicket—the repository of everything magic in Morgravia. Most in Morgravia do not believe magic exists anymore but the magic, like it does in so many worlds, gives Morgravia its distinctive history and flavor.

The only ones who truly believe in magic are the brave few: Cassien, Master Fynch, Hamelyn and Gabriel among others whose job it is to save Florentyna and her kingdom, maintain the Wild and destroy Cyricus once and for all.

Bright and brisk: This is a tale to savor and enjoy. I loved the characters good and bad. They all have layers and like any good fantasy not all are as they appear. The romance and drama and even the sacrifices are strong, sweet and satisfying.

There’s even a dragon.

A rich, wonderful read. ~~ Sue Martin

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