A first novel.
Ricardo Pinto's first novel opens a fantasy sequence titled "The Stone Dance of the Chameleon," exploring a complex and hierarchical empire with a vaguely Asian flavor. Young hero Carnelian journeys from his aristocratic father's remote, wintry house of exile to the heart of power--moving stage by stage from carefree family life to an imperial court dominated by unchangeable rituals that make the regimentation of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast seem like an anarchic free-for-all. This obsessiveness is reflected in ornate masks and formal clothing, growing more bizarrely exotic as travelers approach the center of the Guarded Land, and culminating in massive "robes" of precious woven metals built up on scaffolding, plus shoes that are virtually stilts. Masks are socially necessary because any commoner who sees the face of a Master (the immensely tall ruling class) must be blinded--as Carnelian learns to his horror after briefly forgetting to cover up. Far worse mutilations are commonplace. But even amid the poisoned splendors, suffocating protocols, and treachery of court life, there are tiny opportunities to break loose: our hero discovers illicit knowledge and a forbidden lover. Then, after the new God Emperor's election, there's disaster leading to a sudden cliffhanger ending. Full of rich imagery, haunting horror, and the slow-motion quality of dreams, this is a series to watch.
Source: David Langford, Amazon.co.uk.