Cartomancy: Book Two of The Age of Discovery
by Michael A. Stackpole
Review by Colleen Cahill
Spectra Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0553382381
Date: 28 February, 2006 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The first volume, A Secret Atlas, introduced us to the Anturasi family whose patriarch Qiro rules with an iron will. Much of his power, both within the family and the in the country of Nalenyr, come from his ability to map the new territories that supply the realm with trade and wealth. His grandsons are now on dangerous missions: Jorim seeks new lands to the East while Keles searches through the magic ridden wastes for a sleeping Empress. Jorim's mission is a success when his ship stumbles across Caxyan and the Amentzutl people. This Mesoamerica-like civilization greets Jorim as the reincarnation of their god Tetcomchoa, who is similar to the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. Unlike Hermán Cortés in our world, however, Jorim actually begins to show signs and powers that make him wonder if he might really be a god. His appearance among the Amentzutl signals that a time of dire peril is upon them, one from which only Jorim can save them. Meanwhile, Keles has been captured by the forces of Deseirion, who are on the verge of war with Nalenyr. Taken to the capital city of Felarati, Prince Pyrust gives Keles a challenge: transform Felarati into a modern city. Keles, seeing few other options but to sit in the dungeon, takes on this work, but with an eye to subtly sabotaging the job by making the city open to attack. And the two boys' sister Nirati is living in a paradise; she is there because she was brutally murdered in her birth world, but her grandfather has kept her from death in an alternate universe he created. She shares this wonderland with a legend from the past, Nelesquin, one of the two powers that over 700 years ago caused the Cataclysm which covered the world in wild and destructive magic. Nirati's grandfather is an ally to this powerful prince, aiding him in his plans to return and conquer all of the lands of the former Empire.
Other players and plots are active beyond the Anturasi family. Prince Cyron of Nalenyr tries to maintain peace, but schemes from the Deseirion, a mysterious force attacking the lands to the South and treachery from within the Nalenyr bureaucracy are overwhelming him. Although Keles was captured, two of the band Cyron sent to find the sleeping Empress continue eastward, uncovering more truth of what actually happened in the Cataclysm. As powers from the ancient past stir, their servants are also awakened, bringing forth old skills lost for many years. The discoveries are not just happening to explorers but even to those who have stayed home.
This is a fun read, full of action, machinations and conundrums. Different pieces of the past are exposed throughout the story, like bits of a broken mirror. There are times when it is not clear who are the good guys and who are the bad, with even the villainous Prince Pyrust shows some virtues. Stackpole demonstrates great skill in his character building, with even lesser players being fully formed. As in the first book, I found the magic one of the most fascinating parts of the story, with such marvels as prophetic seven eyed gloons and the strange power of corpse dust, which can pass the abilities of the dead onto the living.
You really need to read A Secret Atlas before starting Cartomancy, but you will find this is well worth the time. Delve into this world and you will unearth a great Age of Discovery.