Not too long ago I read a book called Irenicon, the first book in the Wave Trilogy. The adventures of Sofia Scaligeri and the fractious city of Rasenna continue in ‘The Warring States’.
Two years have passed since the siege of Rasenna and the death of Giovanni the Engineer, whose bridge united the squabbling town. Rasenna has grown in to a wealthy mercantile city, where the powerful Wool Guild control the votes in parliament and the mercenaries, whose help secured Rasenna’s victory against the enemy Concord, are getting bored. Sofia runs her Workshop and acting as assistant Midwife. She’s pregnant with a child without a father and rumours about, spread mostly by a jealous merchant’s daughter who wants to be a princess. Tensions build in the city as rich merchants grow arrogant and disdainful of the smaller guilds and Small People who make up the majority of the population.
Well aware that Concord will strike back once it recovers from the disaster, Pedro, head of the Engineers Guild, Levi, the Podesta, in charge of defending Rasenna, and Sofia, former Contessa and head of the Bandieratori Guild, who police the fractious city, and occasionally start the fights, try to piece together a league of southern cities to defeat Concord; to do that they agree to go to the maritime city of Ariminum for a conference. While there they are betrayed. Sofia, Levi and an old acquaintance, Ezra, flee to Akka.
Pedro returns to Rasenna only to find it more divided than ever. A Concordian interloper has wormed his way in to power. Meanwhile in Concord itself, Torbidda, the only surviving Apprentice must survive the machinations of Corvis, rebuild the city that’s tearing itself apart and find the answer to the puzzle Bernoulli left behind. Most of all, he needs Sofia’s child; both have a destiny to fulfil.
For Sofia has become the Handmaid of God, the Madonna’s successor, and Torbidda must stop her child from defeating the evil in the world.
It was quite confusing at first to realise that the first part of this book is about Torbidda’s rise to greatness, however it helps form a background to events later on. The action switches between Rasenna, Concord, and, later, Akka, and is interspersed with quotes from religious texts that make up the background of Aiden Harte’s world. The world is analogous to late medieval/early renaissance Italy and the Mediterranean states, including the religious climate and trade tensions. Once immersed in the world it is a fascinating place. The characters are sympathetic, the world fully-realised and believable, and the plot compelling. The intrigues become complex and mind-boggling at times but that adds to the story. I found odd spelling errors in the text but ignored them because the plot was so compelling.
A very enjoyable historical fantasy, I heartily recommend it.