Tor, Mar 2009, $6.99
Women have been banned from practicing magic. In fact in 1636 the enforcers of the taboo, the Imperial Council of Magicians burned at the stake the last blood sorceress. For the next two centuries, the last witch’s loyal servant Jax, who watched horrifically the burning, has searched for the next female practitioner with no success until now.
In the Austrian Empire, Jax believes hedge witch Amanusa Whitcomb is the heir. He mentors a frightened Amanusa on the use of blood magic. However, when she uses her new skill on brutes, she comes to the attention of the Imperial Council of Magicians who sends enforcer Inquisitors to kill the miscreant. As they begin to fall in love, teacher and student flee for their lives heading to Paris but are forced to enter the “dead zones” where none live except those who have died and magic is impossible.
This is an engaging fantasy that takes a sharp turn in emphasis from a unique Europe to romance. Thus the story line loses some momentum with the detour as a fascinating world is overwhelmed by the romance between Jax and Amanusa. Still Gail Dayton writes an interesting tale in which love proves one of the strongest if not the most powerful magic of them all.