Book 1 of the Secret Texts series is set in a world considerably more urban and urbane than traditional fantasy quest epics. Dirigible balloons ("airibles") coexist with Machiavellian plotting, Borgia-like malevolence, and deadly family rivalry resembling that of the Montagues and Capulets in Romeo and Juliet. There's magic, too, forbidden but still furtively used: Each clan has its concealed corps of "Wolves," black magicians who conduct cruel sacrifices and may become physically monstrous from spell backlash. Young heroine Kait is a diplomat trainee and secretly a shapeshifter--that is, accursed and marked for death if ever exposed. After a horrific clash of wizardry and assassination that almost wipes out her clan, she takes ship in search of the ancient Mirror of Souls, which according to legend can bring back the dead. But legends may be booby-trapped: Kait and other characters become guided by helpful spirit voices, gods with their own agenda and no love of humanity, and the Mirror's real function may be altogether different. Meanwhile, a long-dead sorcerer who opposed the gods with his own white-magic cult awaits rebirth. The magic and its transforming side effects are exhilaratingly horrid; the novel ends with a whopping cliffhanger.|
Source: David Langford, Amazon.co.uk.