Author Jeffrey Bardwell shapes a strange, complex world out of a bucket of words and gives us plenty to chew on in a metal and magic, steampunk saga. There’s some adverb gristle to chew through, but Bardwell’s writing is surprisingly good, making Rotten Magic indie gold.
The story begins in first person with Drusilla, an Artificer’s apprentice, mired in the enigma of a cold metal box of gears he can’t figure out. Not that it should be a surprise, since the other apprentices are also at a loss for what the box really is. Except for Devin, who joins us in the second chapter in third person.
Drusilla musses while missing her old friend, “Devin was a human puzzle box….by the five gods, you were just starting to open up and then suddenly you go silent on me. What broke?”
We don’t know until later, when we find that the Artificers are revered, and those with magic, the Mages, are violent criminal outcasts. Or are they?
Eventually, Devin admits he loves the art of dragons and builds mechanical armor befitting the most godly dragon, but is that enough for him? Of course not.
Rotten Magic is the first book in the Artifice Mage Saga, a three book series. And, it appears it was originally written and offered as a much shorter lead-in to the series than its current 336 pages.
The cover may also have changed, as both Rebecca Frank and Les Solot added work. It would appear Les Solot is the artist of the new third edition, and I like the cover very much.
Characters are well developed in this story, with motivation for several to guard their secrets, and try to destroy their true or imagined adversaries. To make things better, the book is currently free. Amazon lists it now as:
#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Gaslamp
Give it a look. What are you afraid of?