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Tracing the Shadow by Sarah Ash
Cover Artist: Phil Heffeman
Review by Mel Jacob
Spectra Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780553589887
Date: 30 December 2008 List Price $7.50 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

British fantasy author Sarah Ash's new series, The Alchymist's Legacy, begins with Tracing the Shadow. The Inquisition acts against the College of Thaumaturgy and its alchymist teachers because a college master stole a crystal from a religious shrine in Ondhessar across the sea. The man escaped in a flying boat. Only magic could power such a craft. The Inquisitor believes all magic evil and determines to root it out.

The crystal contained the spirit of a long dead woman worshiped as a saint. A young apprentice sensitive to the crystal tries to free her. However, he doesn't possess sufficient knowledge to control her. A more senior magus arrives and binds the spirit in a book with a spell that also forces the spirit to protect his young daughter.

The Inquisition arrests all the teachers, but an explosion destroys the College. They believe it killed the magus who stole the crystal and his apprentice. They torture, try, and burn all the teachers including the magus, father of the young daughter.

These acts set in motion the daughter's desire for vengeance. However, at such a tender age, she must first survive her parents' deaths. A soldier takes pity on the beggar child, rescues her, and takes her to a convent. .Only much later does she begin to understand what happened and set out to find her enemies. The girl's upbringing in the convent may remind some readers of Bronte's Jane Eyre.

The young apprentice escapes the purge and the magus with dark powers takes him. He seduces the boy and convinces him to become a magus of the shadow. When the same magus who stole the crystal attacks the boy's master and lover, another shadow magus encases the body and captures the lover's soul to use as a means of controlling the apprentice.

A young musician raised in a monastery loves old books. He senses magic and sees the shadow magus' hawk. When the magus takes a young friend's body and soul to gain Angelstones that detect magic's presence, his possession kills the boy. The magus tries to use the musician, but the soldier saves him. The musician vows vengeance.

Ash's uses a variety of characters to tell her tale. In addition to the girl, the musician, and the young apprentice, he also uses a dedicated soldier of God. They interact with each other to achieve their goals and end the evil magi.

Politics, love, and vengeance, propel the action. Ash's fantasy world uses elements from familiar places such as old Russia (Muscobar), the desert Middle East, France, and others. The next title is Flight into Darkness, which concludes the series.

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