The Valkyrie by Deborah Davitt

Wow! I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a new fantasy series since reading “Kushiel’s Dart”! “The Valkyrie” is a rich, dense, and complex story about an alternate world in which magic exists and Rome never fell. There is a large cast of characters from all parts of the empire–Rome, Judea, Britannia, the Americas (which have a different name), Carthage, and so on. The main action revolves around the bodyguards of a high-level Roman functionary charged with investigating and dealing with sensitive issues. The point of view moves from character to character as they find themselves investigating a series of bizarre human sacrifices in the Americas, which turn out to have much bigger implications than a mere rebellion against Rome…

The world is presented in great detail, with each section begun with an excerpt from a textbook, for example, and all the characters speaking their own languages. There are also detailed descriptions of the different forms of technology and magic, with discussions of things like the pros and cons of ley power versus electricity and ornithopters versus fixed-wing aircraft. For readers looking for a quick read this may be a little too much detail, but for those looking for a fully-realized and complex world in which to immerse themselves, the level of detail is incredibly satisfying. The characters are also complex human beings, even when they’re not entirely human, and their attempts to build or hold together their families are just as compelling as the investigation and action sequences. Lovers of high fantasy should enjoy this book tremendously, and fans of sci-fi may find enough technology and physics to enthrall them as well.

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