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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More Detail about "The Black Opera" by Mary Gentle and "The Emerald Storm" by William Dietrich (by Liviu Suciu)

One of the truly huge asap novels of the year, The Black Opera by Mary Gentle was expected by me in the second half of the year only to recently find out to my delight that Night Shade will publish it in May and of course from there, an advanced review copy found itself to my inbox yesterday.

I happily grabbed the (current) cover picture - note that it may change - since it's quite wonderful, while the book so far about 50+ pages in reads like the awesome novel I expected. Subtitled "a novel of Opera, Volcanoes, and the Mind of God", it is an alternate history taking place in the years following the Napoleonic wars but in an universe where music has magical power if it's sung with enough emotion like for example at Mass or at the Opera...

Here is the blurb that seems accurate:

"Naples, the 19th Century. In the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, holy music has power. Under the auspices of the Church, the Sung Mass can bring about actual miracles like healing the sick or raising the dead. But some believe that the musicodramma of grand opera can also work magic by channeling powerful emotions into something sublime. Now the Prince's Men, a secret society, hope to stage their own black opera to empower the Devil himself - and change Creation for the better! Conrad Scalese is a struggling librettist whose latest opera has landed him in trouble with the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Rescued by King Ferdinand II, Conrad finds himself recruited to write and stage a counter opera that will, hopefully, cancel out the apocalyptic threat of the black opera, provided the Prince's Men, and their spies and saboteurs, don't get to him first. And he only has six weeks to do it..."


By popular demand though I guess contrary to his wishes (!), Ethan Gage is back in another adventure after the duology Napoleon's Pyramids/The Rosetta Key and the more-or-less standalone adventures The Dakota Cipher and The Barbary Pirates. Another May publication, this one made its way to my house only today and I had the opportunity to read just two pages, but they showed once again why I find these books irresistible.

Ethan Gage is feeling a little depressed as he explains to us why instead of retiring rich with his family to America, he has to climb up to a mountainous French prison to spring Toussaint L'Ouverture out of Napoleon's clutches. I predict another rip-roaring adventure with the usual combination of humor, sffnal touches and superb historical context and atmosphere.

I will present the blurb below, but if you are new to the series, I highly recommend to get acquainted with Ethan Gage from his first adventure when living the (low and) high life in the decadent 1798 Paris of the Directory, he is framed for murder because of something he won at cards, so he escapes as a member of the young up-and-coming general Bonaparte's expedition to Egypt. Of course Ethan's troubles are only beginning...

"In the fifth installment of master storyteller William Dietrich’s bestselling adventure series, the swashbuckling, battle-scarred hero Ethan Gage must race from the slopes of the Alps to the sultry tropics of the Caribbean to pursue a mysterious Spanish treasure as the fate of England—and of the world’s first successful slave revolt—hang desperately in the balance. The Emerald Storm is the action-packed historical masterpiece that Ethan Gage fans have long awaited. Fans of the Indiana Jones adventures, the Sharpe’s Rifles series, and the thrilling works of James Rollins, who himself calls Dietrich’s writing “adventure at its grandest,” will find The Emerald Storm a satisfying, sword-in-hand romp through history—and new readers will discover it as the perfect introduction to the breathtaking Ethan Gage Adventures."


Bibliotropic said...

I got an e-book copy of "The Black Opera", and I've got to say that I'm really excited to read it. The synopsis sounds intriguing, and I'm finding myself more drawn to historical fantasies these days than I used to be, so this book fits right in with that, too!

Liviu said...

I've read quite a few of Mary Gentle's books and both her pure sfnal work like Ancient Light and her alt-hist one like 1610 and Ilario are still memorable and come up when i want to talk about something they exemplify in ways that many others novels do not.

Her work is eclectic and for example I never warmed to her fantasy novels, while Ash is still a bit too long for its depth and I read only parts, but The Black opera have been a huge asap since a few years back when rumors of it surfaced

Ryan said...

The Black Opera sounds like a really interesting book. I'll definitely be looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

Liviu said...

I put a minireview on Goodreads/sffworld with a full review to come; lots of fun but a lighter book than i expected

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