This is an astonishingly good political fantasy, with a varied cast of characters brought together by forces outside their control. But instead of the usual magical means, the forces here are political and economic. The story is intricately constructed and each detail is important. Not a single word or scene is wasted, and the payoff at the end is well worth the journey to get there.
There’s an uneasy truce between the kingdoms of Scheria and Permia for the first time in 40 years. As a gesture of goodwill and peace, the Scherian government has decided to send their national fencing team on a tour of Permia, but first they need to assemble the team — by any means necessary. The four fencers and their coach come together through a coalescence of blackmail, bribery and coercion and set off for Permia. Along the way, they encounter nothing but trouble and, as they leave each town, it falls to riots and civil unrest. It becomes increasingly clear to them that their tour might be a cover for something more sinister. They begin to wonder if peace is truly possible — and, if so, is it worth the price? (ORBIT, Aug., 480 pp., $15.99)