Saturday, August 18, 2012

Arcana Universalis: Terminus (Chris J. Randolph)

Arcana Universalis: Terminus
(Arcana Universalis, Part 1)
Chris J. Randolph
Oktopod Digital Press
Fiction, Fantasy
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: For thousands of years, under the reign of the glorious emperor Spiritus LXX, human civilization has stretched across the stars. With magic as the backbone of technology, the rule of arcanists stands unchallenged by man or alien... save a few heretic races, backwards and violent people hardly worth mentioning. But, as all stars eventually collapse, all empires must fall. The reign of Spiritus, and perhaps humanity itself, now stands upon that brink, though it does not yet know it.
The apprentice boy Caleb barely made it through his education at the Academy; his second sight is weak, and he barely commands any native power. Marginal as his talents are, and dim as his prospects for future employment seem, at least he has it better than the ungifted masses. Still, sometimes it's hard to remember to be grateful, especially during his grueling externship aboard the starship Ashkalon, where he's more likely to be shoveling out the lifestock pens than actually studying magic. When the ship is diverted to investigate a possible crash site, at least it's a break from the routine. But this seemingly benign detour may have dire consequences, for the crew of the Ashkalon and the empire - not to mention the boy Caleb.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: The first part of a longer work, Arcana Universalis: Terminus sets up an imaginative, intriguing world, where magic has replaced far-future technology. Through Caleb, the reader explores a starship powered by arcane arts, and gets a taste of the empire behind this anachronistic wonder. Unfortunately, Terminus ends just before it establishes the story arc for the whole Universalis project... an arc hinted at, in somewhat grandiose prose, during the prologue. It was frustrating, to hit the end when I felt the story itself had barely begun. Still, Randolph's world intrigued me enough that I expect I'll read on, at least through the second installment (which, like this one, was a freebie download.)

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