The collaboration team behind This Rough Magic sounds like some really dumb joke: “An Australian, a Trotskyite labor organizer-turned-editor, and Mercedes Lackey walked into a bar….” Unfortunately, it’s a bad joke on us. Editor Eric Flint has his name on at least 25% of Baen’s published books nowadays; Mercedes Lackey is the fantasy world’s saddest victim of the Brain Eater and recently wrote a book with a magical abortionist heroine (“….she would treat the women who came to her for treatment of their “female complaints”-including inconvenient or unwedded pregnancy….”); and Dave Freer…well, heck, he could be good, but we’ll never know. His name only appears on books in conjunction with Eric Flint’s.
The best thing I can say about this book is that it’s not the Ghu-forsaken sequel to Schmitz’s light and lovely novel of the 1970’s, The Witches of Karres. Which they are also writing. Ewwwwwww. Well, at least they can’t make me read it.
This is alternative world fantasy of the sort where all the names are changed slightly for no reason whatsoever I can see. (Unless it’s to prevent them from having to do any research?) So read Loyola for Lopez (oooooh, man, that’s a terrrrrrible name to give a Basque! Have they leaden ears?) It may be a sequel to their Shadow of the Lion book, but I was so insulted by Baen’s refusal to admit on the book that parts of it had appeared previously as Lackey’s work on Cherryh’s Merovingen Nights anthology series (“But people might not have bought it if they knew that!” said Flint…no, I’m not kidding) that I’ve never actually read Shadow of the Lion. Anyway, here are your promised magical Jesuits.
This Rough Magic
Autumn, 1538 a.d.
Eneko Lopez was not the sort of man to let mere discomfort of the body come between him and his God. Or between him and the work he believed God intended him to do. The Basque ignored exhaustion and hunger. He existed on inner fires anyway, and the fires of his spirit burned hot and bright. Some of that showed in the eagle eyes looking intently at the chalice on the altar. The low-burned candles and the fact that several of the other priests had fainted from exhaustion, cold or hunger, bore mute testimony to the fact that the ceremony had gone on for many hours. Without looking away from the chalice upon which their energies were focused, Eneko could pick up the voices of his companions, still joined in prayer. There was Diego’s baritone; Father Pierre’s deeper bass; Francis’s gravelly Frankish; the voices of a brotherhood united in faith against the darkness.
At last the wine in the chalice stirred. The surface became misty, and an image began to form. Craggy-edged, foam-fringed. A mountain . . .
The air in the chapel became scented with myrtle and lemon-blossom. Then came a sound, the wistful, ethereal notes of panpipes. There was something inhuman about that playing, although Eneko could not precisely put his finger on it. It was a melancholy tune, poignant, old; music of rocks and streams, music that seemed as old as the mountains themselves.
There was a thump. Yet another priest in the invocation circle had fallen, and the circle was broken again.
So was the vision. Eneko sighed, and began to lead the others in the dismissal of the wards.
“My knees are numb,” said Father Francis, rubbing them. “The floors in Roman chapels are somehow harder than the ones in Aquitaine ever were.”
“Or Venetian floors,” said Pierre, shaking his head. “Only your knees numb? I think I am without blood or warmth from the chest down.”
“We came close,” Eneko said glumly. “I still have no idea where the vision is pointing to, though.”
Father Pierre rubbed his cold hands. “You are certain this is where Chernobog is turning his attentions next?”
“Certain as can be, under the circumstances. Chernobog…or some other demonic creature. Great magical forces leave such traces.”
“But where is it?” asked Diego, rubbing his back wearily. “Somewhere in the Mediterranean, an island, that much is clear. Probably in the vicinity of Greece or the Balkans. But which? There are a multitude.”
Eneko shrugged. “I don’t know. But it is an old place, full of crude and elemental powers, a repository of great strength, and . . .”
“And it does not love us,” Eneko said, with a kind of grim certainty.
“It did not feel evil,” commented Francis. “I would have thought an ally of Chernobog must be corrupted and polluted by the blackness.”
“Francis, the enemy of my enemy is not always my friend, even if we have common cause.”
“We should ally, Eneko,” said Francis firmly. “Or at least not waste our strength against each other. After all, we face a common enemy.”
Eneko shrugged again. “Perhaps. But it is not always that simple or that wise. Well, let us talk to the Grand Metropolitan and tell him what little we know.”
First off…does anybody out there believe that any version of the Jesuits would be doing magic that involved wine in a chalice? Visions in bowls of water, fine. But not in a million zillion trillion alternate universes would Eneko de Loyola cruise this close to blasphemy.
All I can say is that maybe the writers’ll learn something from spending time with the Jesuit founding fathers, if only in the most peripheral way. However, these writers being who they are, if the book ends up with the Jesuits as some powerhungry mob committing human sacrifice (under mind control, of course; mustn’t offend the Catholics) and the day being saved by an atheist scientist or something, I wouldn’t be too surprised.
But then, I ain’t reading this book, either…just bringing it to St. Blog’s attention.