In an alternate 19th century, there are two warring continents on an reimagined earth: the scientific Anglica (England) and magical Bharata (India). Emboldened by her grandfather’s final whispered secret of a magical lotus, Tori Harding, a young Victorian woman and aspiring botanist, must journey to Bharata, with its magics, intrigues and ghosts, to claim her fate. There she will face a choice between two suitors and two irreconcilable realms.
In a magic-infused world of silver tigers, demon birds and enduring gods, as a great native mutiny sweeps over the continent, Tori will find the thing she most desires, less perfect than she had hoped and stranger than she could have dreamed.
Excerpt: At the top of the stairs, a servant girl met her and gestured her toward the ranee, ensconced in an enormous rattan chair draped in silk. A servant moved a punkah back and forth over the ranee’s head, but not a hair rippled in her coconut-oiled chignon. Her red sari was shot through with threads of gold. Tori approached and fell into a curtsy. “Ah, then it is Astoria, is it?” the ranee said in heavily accented Anglic. “Ek ucch samman,” Tori said. A great honor. The ranee gave a small, surprised look, her face plump and ageless. “Please be sitting. It will please us to do.” A chair appeared and Tori sat. “Sukriya, Raniji.” Thank you, Highness. The ranee paused, lifting an eyebrow at this Bharati exchange. “Bahut accha.” Very good. The ranee continued in Bharati, “Shall we converse in my language, then?” Tori smiled, and said, also in Bharati, “Please, Highness, it would be a great pleasure. But my skill is imperfect.” “We must leave perfection to the gods,” the ranee said. The porch had gone very quiet. Across the courtyard, the mongoose again, chittering against the faint background of the band. “Your grandsire once came to visit Kathore. He studied very much of growing things at our Gangadhar Mahal.” Now was Tori’s chance, forward or not, protocol or not. “Highness, he told me so much about the Gangadhar. It’s a sight I would love to see for his sake.” “The monkeys have it now,” the ranee murmured. “They chatter of the old days. Yes, the monkeys remember.” Then a whump of a gun came from across the grounds. Everyone on the porch turned to see a golden cascade of fire fall from the sky. The fireworks display had begun. Cheers came from the distant officer’s mess as a grand red flower bloomed in the sky and fell earthward in fragments of stars. The assembly on the porch watched in rapt attention as the display continued, the launch guns barking, the sky lit with streamers of green, silver and red. “My people also have a show of color,” the ranee said. There was a pause in the fireworks, like a gathering breath. Then a glowing fountain rushed upward from the parade grounds. Coalescing in the sky, it resolved into the head of a golden jaguar. A lovely feat, which Tori assumed–by the claps from around the ranee–was the work of Kathore. Then there was something less lovely about the picture. Was that a frown on the great cat’s face? Yes–and now, its eyes slanting deeply into a frown. Hovering overhead, looking down upon them, it held a most unpleasant aspect. Then it began to change even more. The jaguar’s mouth exploded into a gaping hole of crimson-drenched teeth. Tori stepped backward, hand on her throat, guessing what came next. And then it did: out of the bloody maw came a roar that shook the garden. From the dance came a woman’s scream. Then laughter. It was only a display. The phantom crumbled to fragments, leaving a trace of the mouth. At last, even this, in a drooping grimace, fell to splinters. The ranee turned toward her guest, looking serene and if Tori did not impute more than she should, satisfied. “It was only a jaguar.” “If that is what they look like, I hope I may not see a real one.”
Kay Kenyon is the author of eleven science fiction and fantasy novels, including The Entire and the Rose series that was hailed by The Washington Post as “A splendid fantasy quest as compelling as anything by Stephen R. Donaldson, Philip Jose Farmer or yes, J. R. R. Tolkien”. Kay’s newest work “A Thousand Perfect Things” blends the reason of the Victorian Age and the magics of an alternate Earth.
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