More than 400 years ago there were two powerful entities, the Chosen and those who are now called ghouls. The Chosen wielded a magical power called deiat. With deiat they powered technological marvels like sky fortresses and more mundane blaster pistols. The ghouls channeled a biological magic called dhak. With dhak they could do amazing feats of healing and creation of bio constructs for any application. Dhak could also be twisted to create horrible monsters, plaguespawn, as creatures and humans could be hybridized. 400 hundreds years ago an epic war was waged by the Chosen to wipe out the ghouls. In its catastrophic wake, humanity was set back hundreds of years and broken into the Republic, splinter kingdoms, and lone hold outs eking out an existence on the dangerous fringes of the world.
The Chosen are gone from the world, wiped out by Plague, yet some humans have the ability to wield deiat. They became centarchs and oversee the safety of humanity from the plaguespawn and dhakim, those humans who have learned to use dhak. Minor dhak magic still exists but it is a criminal offense to use it. Centarchs and the Twilight Order are in charge of enforcing the rules.
Gyre, age 8. and Maya, age 5, were living an idyllic life in the country raising vulpi on the family farm, safe within the protection of the Republic. The only thing that marred it was Maya’s illnesses when she would be wracked with fever for weeks. Nothing doctors did ever seemed to help. One day a centarch arrives to take Maya away. Gyre is furious and can’t understand how his parents would just give her up. Taking the initiative he stabs the centarch in the thigh. In punishment he is struck in the face and loses an eye as a result. These actions sets a burning fire within Gyre to destroy the centarchs and Republic. Maya has been taken due to having the ability to wield deiat. From that point forward she is raised within the Order to become a centarch. Forbidden to have contact with family, until becoming a centarch, her family life fades away as she becomes indoctrinated by the Order.
By the time Gyre reaches adulthood he is a revolutionary trying to undermine the dux of Deepfire and hoping to stoke the fires of rebellion. Maya is an agathios, training under centarch Jaedia. Unbeknownst to Maya, Jaedia has been shielding her from the politics of the Order and raising her to be a servant of the common people, not a strict enforcer. When the two finally meet again, they find themselves deeply entrenched on opposite sides of an ideological divide. However, if time and circumstances would allow Maya and Gyre would find they share more in common than initial appearances would seem.
A minor detail that I find fun about Wexler’s world setting is that hair naturally comes in a wide variety of colors. There are still standard reds and browns but also purple, green, blue, pink and variations thereof. Eyes also come in a spectrum of colors. Another detail that I cherish is that the world is LGBTQ+ friendly, there is no prejudice, people just love or are attracted to whoever with no social commentary. I also appreciate his using the title ‘dux’ as opposed to having gendered duke and duchess. Later on, the title Baron is shown to be awarded to both male and female characters.
I thoroughly enjoyed Wexler’s “Shadow Campaign” series, which was flintlock style fantasy. I equally am engaged with this new “Burningblade and Silvereye” sci-fantasy series. My 8th grader is a fan of his middle grade “Forbidden Library” series. And I’ve just learned that in the past few years he sneaked in a YA series, “Wells of Sorcery”, that I now need to find. If you are looking for fantasy mixed with different elements, with well rounded female characters, and deeply thought through world settings, I highly recommend checking out Wexler’s works.