This is definitely one of the more innovative fantasy novels that have come out this year. After all – it is not often that a river capable of thinking consciously, complete with lethal water spirits plays a central part in a story.
The River Irenicon first appeared through the center of Rasenna in 1347. It is an artificial river flowing uphill which was created overnight using the Wave, by engineers belonging to the Concordian empire.
Not even the engineers understand the Wave – or why it has become sentient and hostile. To make matters worse, Rasenna is occupied by feuding groups which fight using flags and aim to capture each other’s banners. Vendettas are all too common. Into this environment comes Sophia Scaligeri, who is set to become Contessa of Rasenna on her eighteenth birthday.
She has trained hard, learning how to fight and possibly how to rule. She would love to stop the culture of vendetta but doesn’t know how to do so. To make matters worse, a young Concordian Engineer called Captain Giovanni has been ordered to create a bridge across the Irenicon in order to provide access for Concordian armies to expand beyond Rasenna.
It is a dangerous task as they not only have to contend with the feuding groups of Rasenna but the dangerous water spirits – the buio – who infest the Irenicon. In addition, the Concordian Empire are planning to release the Wave again causing yet more devastation.
Slowly both Contessa Sophia and Captain Giovanni come to realize that they have to change in order to survive. There is a distinctly medieval/renaissance feel about the whole story, linking in aspects of Italian culture with their flag waving and feuding. The characters are well drawn, and the idea behind the story innovative and different. It is a long novel, and at times I did find my attention wandering a little when the pace slowed.
It could have been made even better with more editing. Overall this is a good read, which will appeal to anyone who likes fantasy and history. Aiden Harte has created a very realistic world, and you do feel as though it really exists. More books in the series are planned, and I look forward to seeing how this concept develops.