Whenever I start the second or later book in a series, I have a dilemma. Do I go back and re-read the first book(s), or just dive right into the latest release?
To help readers with this, I include a summary of the previous books. I try to make these funny, and have done this for all my novels.
BE WARNED! If you haven’t read the books being summarized, there are massive spoilers on these pages!
You can read the rest of the summaries at magitechchronicles.com/previously-on.
Let’s get to it.
In an announcer’s voice: Last time on The Magitech Chronicles…
The story begins with Major Voria, who is arriving at a floating palace over the world of Shaya.
WTF is Shaya, you ask? It’s kind of like the word “Smurf,” and gets used for a lot of things.
Shaya originally refers to a goddess who got kacked (that’s totally a word). Her body is, apparently, a giant hippie tree that crashed on a barren moon. Because Shaya’s all magicky, her body created a breathable atmosphere around that part of the moon.
So Shaya refers to the world, and to the goddess herself. Are you smurfing confused yet?
Anyway, now the Shayans live out their lives on her branches or near the roots.
Voria meets with the Tender, a superhumanly beautiful woman whose role, purpose, and powers were left largely unexplained. She’s the Guardian of Shaya, a demigod mystically empowered by tree lady to watch over her people.
The Tender told Voria she’d deciphered an augury (totally not a prophecy, and I totally didn’t choose augury because prophecy has been taken) showing Voria’s involvement in a war with the draconic Krox.
Clear as mud? Yeah, it’s a lot; I know. Now that readers were thoroughly confused, I jumped into another PoV character, a guy by the name of Aran.
Aran wakes up in restraints with a number of other prisoners / slaves.
His captors are a pretty girl-next-door type named Nara, and a muhahaha style villain named Yorrak. Yorrak tells the slaves that they’re about to make a run on the body of a dead god, called a Catalyst.
This particular Catalyst, a giant floating head full of very angry tech demons, is called the Skull of Xal. The slaves clash with the demons, who tear most of them apart. Aran makes friends with a man named Kaz, and the two fight their way past the demons. They have a choice: Die, or dive into the scary purple god-light where Nara and the slavers disappear. They choose to brave the light, and enter the mind of a god.
Aran sees Xal’s memories, and for a brief instant understands the secrets of the universe (this was my favorite chapter in the whole book to write). He learns Xal was killed by a gathering of gods, convinced by Krox that Xal had betrayed them.
All this god-politics stuff becomes important later, but at this point all we really care about is the fact that Aran comes out of the Catalyst with void magic.
We also learn that magic items can catalyze, too, and Aran’s spellblade awakens after touching the mind of Xal. It hasn’t yet reached snarky-sidekick-level intelligence, but you guys know that’s coming. Although, in this case, the sword is more murderous than snarky.
Kaz survives, too, and also gains void magic. When they come out of the Catalyst, Kaz attacks Yorrak, and Aran helps him.
Yorrak uses a morph spell that turns Kazon into a hedgehog. =O
Right around this point, many readers were like, WTF am I even reading? A god-damned hedgehog? Are you f-ing serious? The cover looks sci-fi, but there’s magic everywhere! There was a deep-seated fear Kazon would become some sort of stupid comedy animal sidekick.
Spoilers: He didn’t.
Aran finishes off Yorrak while Nara and her friends join the mutiny. Together, they overcome Yorrak’s guards, but Nara immediately takes over and makes Aran a prisoner. We’re shocked (we’re not shocked).
The joke is on Nara, though, because Voria conveniently arrives with the Confederate Battleship Wyrm Hunter. Nara pilots Yorrak’s spellship, but Voria easily catches her and disables her vessel.
Nara begs Aran to help fight, and claims that if the Confederates capture them, they’ll mind-wipe them and conscript them into the Marines. Aran agrees to help, because plot.
Voria sends a boarding party of tech mages, under the command of Captain Thalas (aka Dick Sock), who kicks the crap out of Aran. Aran does manage to disarm him first, ensuring that Dick Sock has ample reason to hate him for the rest of the book.
Nara also attempts to betray Aran, and claims he was one of the slavers and she was one of the slaves. Captain Dick Sock is not impressed, and takes both her and Aran prisoner.
It turns out Nara was right. Voria mind-wipes her, destroying her mind and replacing her with an innocent woman with no memories. This raises some very troubling moral questions about slavery, in case you ever need a quick excuse to tell your English professor that Tech Mage is totally valid for your book report. Make sure you use the word “themes” when you try to sell it.
Voria spares Aran, though she doesn’t explain why. The reader already knows it’s because Aran was in the augury the Tender showed her. Aran isn’t sure how to feel about this, and of course doesn’t trust Nara even though her newly wiped self seems sweet.
Before I go any further, you may notice that Nara is Aran spelled backward. There’s a cheesy joke about it. Trust me, there’s a reason. You’ll find out in Book 3.
Anyway, the wonder twins are introduced to their squad of tech mages: Specialist Bord (the comic relief), Corporal Kezia (a short, pretty drifter who talks like the characters in the movie Snatch, Irish Travelers), and my personal favorite…Sergeant Crewes. Crewes is a badass who brooks no nonsense, and has most of the best dialogue in the book. Love that guy.
Anyway, Aran and Nara get a Team-America-style training montage (Montage!), where they learn how to use spellrifles, spellarmor, and other basic magic.
Voria takes Aran to a place called Drifter Rock so they can load up on potions, especially healing potions. Thanks to the convenient augury, she knows he will be instrumental in their battle against the Krox, and she uses this as an opportunity to get to know him.
Voria trades her super-powerful, ancient eldimagus (living magic item) staff for every potion the drifters have. This includes a potion the drifters claim can bring someone back from the dead, which was my attempt at sneakily foreshadowing the fact that someone was going to get resurrected. That particular cheat is rampant in Dungeons & Dragons, which inspired much of the setting for the Magitech Chronicles.
Enter Nebiat, the antagonist (dun dun dun). Nebiat is an ancient Wyrm who likes to spend her time in human form. She uses binding magic to mentally enslave the governor of a planet called Marid, and we’re all gasp, because that’s the planet from the augury.
The Krox invade with a full dragonflight and a bunch of troop transports. They wipe out the defenders, who come from a planet called Ternus. Rhymes with burn us, as in “Shit, these dragons are burning the crap out of us.”
At this point, the politics in the book aren’t very clear. Ternus is a human world with no magic, and they have the largest technological fleet in the sector. But they suck at defending against magic, and for that they need Shaya. Both Shaya and Ternus are part of the Confederacy, though Shaya is clearly in charge while Ternus is the annoying younger sibling.
To complicate things further, there is a third group called the Inuran Consortium. The Inurans buy technology from Ternus, and take magic from Shaya, then use both to make spellrifles, spellarmor, and spellships.
Voria needs those weapons and armor if she’s to have any prayer of taking down the Krox. Fortunately, the head of the Consortium is looking for Kazon, the guy who got turned into a hedgehog earlier in the book. Kazon turns out to be the son of the Inuran Matriarch, and controls a shit-ton of voting stock she’ll lose if he dies.
The Wyrm Hunter arrives in-system and we finally get some dragon-on-starship combat. The Hunter kills the mighty Wyrm Kheftut (Nebiat’s brother), then links up with the Ternus defenders who survived the battle with the Krox.
For those who asked (a surprising number of you): yes, both Kheftut and Nebiat sound Egyptian, and that is a theme for the Krox (woohoo, another one for your book report). And yes, there are subtle links to my Deathless setting, which also links heavily to Egypt.
Voria comes up with a plan, and manages to take back the orbital station the Krox conquered. This plan is a success only because Aran and Nara do an end run and drive the binder off the station, so they’re the heroes of the day.
Unfortunately, there’s a complication. Captain Dick Sock orders the Confederate Marines to suicide against the Krox position to weaken the binder. Aran, Nara, and Crewes mutiny to stop this. They save the Marines, but Dick Sock wants them dead—especially Aran.
Things come to a head when Voria finally meets with the Inurans. She trades back Kazon (who turns out to be her brother, gasp), but Kazon insists they also free Aran, since Aran saved his life at the Skull of Xal.
Dick Sock demands Aran be put to death for assaulting a superior asshole, and has the law on his side. Technically, Voria has to execute him. Or course, technically, she’s been stripped of command, and Thalas should be in charge. (Did I not already mention that?)
Voria is already in deep. She’s been officially stripped of command, but refuses to step down. If she does, she knows her people—and the people on the world below—will die.
So Voria charges Dick Sock with treason, and executes him on the spot. This solves her immediate dilemma, but also creates a whole bunch of problems that (spoilers) she’s going to run into in this book.
Crewes steps up and asks Voria to promote Aran to Lieutenant, because Crewes doesn’t feel qualified to lead and thinks Aran can. Voria’s hesitant, but agrees because of the augury.
The Confederates head down to the planet, and, because Nebiat has bound the governor, it’s a trap =O. Hundreds of Marines and thousands of citizens are killed in a surprise Krox raid.
Aran manages to kill two different binders, but pays a high price: Bord is killed. It’s terribly sad. I mean, you felt bad, right? Bord was kind of an ass, but he was amusing. He at least deserves a moment of silence, you savages.
The Krox retreat back into the swamp, leaving the Confederates to recover. Voria suspects the governor, but doesn’t have proof yet. She heads to the local archives and meets with the head archivist (powerful mage / librarian).
She learns what Nebiat is after in the swamp: some sort of potent water Catalyst that appeared during the godswar, when a god’s body crashed to this world and formed the crater the city was built in. Voria realizes she needs to get out there, but before they can leave there are a few things she needs to take care of.
She talks to Aran about how terrible it is to lose a man under your command, then she’s all Psych! She uses the potion they got from the drifters to bring Bord back from the dead.
Cheating, maybe, but I don’t like killing characters when I can avoid it. As Rick would say, “We can only do this a few more times, Morty.” That means I can’t keep doing fake-outs. Someone has to get the axe, or you’ll think people have plot armor. Will someone die in this book? Now you’ll wonder…muhahahaha.
Anyway, Voria confronts the governor, proves he is bound, and has him removed from power. She calls for volunteers, then the Confederates and their new colonial militia allies head into the swamp to find Nebiat.
There’s lots of pew, pew, RAWR, I’m a dragon, and Aran kills the binder who got away on the station. They find Nebiat’s super-secret ritual at the heart of the swamp, and they begin their epic brawl.
It’s clear from the start that the Confederates are outmatched. How were Aran and Voria going to beat a much more powerful army of dragons? Many readers began suspiciously waiting for the deus ex machina. I mean, I had to have one. There was no other way for them to win.
Things got worse when the Marines finally arrived at the battle with the newly minted militia. They were wiped out to a man, and their bodies were animated and sent to attack Voria and Captain Davidson.
Throughout the book, I kept mentioning the Potion of Shaya’s Grace that Aran received as a gift from Kazon (along with his new Proteus Mark XI Spellarmor). Aran pops the potion, which makes him faster and stronger, and gives him the ability to see several seconds into the future.
Aran grabs Nara and the two of them fly up to the summit of the mountain where Nebiat has placed the ritual. On the way up, Aran makes the (not so) casual observation that the mountain looks like it’s a real face.
He brawls with a bunch of enforcers while Nara tries to stop the ritual. We’ve seen her latent true mage abilities manifest several times, so we aren’t surprised when she steps into the circle and begins manipulating the spell.
This is the part where I hoped all my little hints paid off. The mountain was actually the ancient Wyrm Drakkon. Minor spoilers, but Drakkon invented the style of martial arts Aran was trained in before the mind-wipe. Drakkon is crazy-powerful, and super-old. If Nebiat enslaves him, the Confederates are screwed, and that’s exactly what her ritual is designed to do.
Voria hoped destroying some of the urns holding the magical energy would stop the ritual, but they were only able to blow up the spirit urn. Spirit magic is used in…*drumroll*…binding. (If you want more details about the magic system, I’ve got a ton of it at magitechchronicles.com/world, including a video.)
Nara realizes the spell can be completed if she removes the binding portion. The rest of the spell is designed to wake a creature from mystical slumber.
She completes the spell, and the mountain stands up. Drakkon crushes the Krox forces, and Nebiat goes full GTFO. She flees the planet, and doesn’t stop running until she reaches her father’s system.
Voria, Captain Davidson, Aran, Nara, Crewes, Kezia, and Bord all Catalyze in a blast of magical energy from the water Catalyst.
This provides a glimpse into Marid’s mind. Aran experiences the god’s death, which happens some time after Xal. Her last act is to create a living spell, one designed to stop Krox even though Marid herself died. That spell is very important in the book you’re about to read.
Drakkon (finally) explains the Big Mystery (™) to Aran. Nebiat wanted to enslave Drakkon, because he’s the Guardian of Marid. Controlling him would give her an army of drakes with which to assault the Confederacy, and Ternus would fall within months.
Drakkon was vulnerable, because in his grief over his mother’s death he went into something dragons call “the endless sleep.” Before seeking solace, Drakkon used a potent spell to move the world where Marid died. He put it in a far-away system, where other gods would struggle to find it.
Then Drakkon positioned his body over the wound that had slain Marid. He covered the heart wound, muting the magical signature and preventing primals from all over the sector from being drawn to that world.
Now that he’s awake, he’s pledged to raise the drakes on Marid, and when the time is right he will bring them into the war against Krox. So, in the end, Voria accomplished her mission. She stopped Nebiat, but sacrificed almost her entire unit to do it.
Aran and Nara lived, but both are missing their past. Aran desperately wants to reclaim his, while Nara is still hiding from hers.
Crewes, Davidson, Kezia, and Bord survived, but everyone else died. The survivors are tired, and they are out of resources…but they are alive.
Now, Major Voria must atone for her actions.
Nara must learn to be a true mage.
Aran must learn who he really is…
On to Void Wyrm!