Lovely Melfka whose glasses are oval, not round, but it might change soon, sent me that one – thank you very much!
Once upon a time there were mighty magicians who could enslave demons and monsters and turn them into whatever they wanted: palaces, spires, sculptures, lovers and killing machines. Those magicians after a time became princes and ruled vast areas of land. Still nothing lasts forever. Their children and great-children were becoming weaker and weaker until they were conquered by other rulers and often also by their own flaws. This anthology tells you about them in small, easily readable bits – visit a fantasy Italy where magic and monsters used to be as abundant as grapes and olives.
It is a compilation of short stories which are all set in the same magical world full of fantastic creatures, greedy magicians and princes, beautiful girls and even one dragon. The premise worked for me surprisingly well, maybe because I could feel the connection between particular stories all the way to the very (rather bitter) end. They were even presented from different POVs: once as how it really happened, then as a legend repeated by the descendants or story tellers etc. It was a very refreshing formula.
The world build wasn’t perhaps excessively intricate but it remained interesting enough to make me immersed immediately. Still its ambiguity was the best. After a while I was forced to ask myself who is the bigger monster: an imprisoned demon or a magician who craves its power? A six-headed Scylla, born that way after all, or a monk who aims to kill it just to prove his point? Where the faith ends and the ugly religious fundamentalism begins? Should monsters be hunted just because they harm people – more numerous and perhaps more flexible of those two species? I admit I love it when a fairy tale or a fantasy story makes you think about serious ethical and/or philosophical problems and this compilation certainly could do that to me.
If I had to carp about something I would say the author tended to repeat some plot devices too often; for example it happened several times in different stories that a victorious prince-magician married the daughter of his killed opponent. After the third time I admit I raised one eyebrow but I had to read on anyway because I was still interested how it would end and, to my delight, it sometimes ended bad.
A completely recommendable book and author. What a pity this one is not available in English. In my humble opinion it should be.