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'Two Serpents Rise' in a highly original magic - god war set in an Aztecan land

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Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone

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Max Gladstone excellent fantasy "Two Serpents Rise" http://www.amazon.com/Two-Serpents-Rise-Max-Gladstone/dp/0765333120 is set in an originally realized industrialized Aztecan land, where great wizards (called Craftmen) have vanquished the old gods, their priests and their habits of human sacrifices and taken power under the leadership of the Red King. His Red King Consolidated concern now runs the city of Dresedial Lex and is a player on the world stage. But the old gods and their worshippers have not all gone quietly into the night. These gods are still around in body. living underground, in old temples or in the forest. There are also powerful forces, who want to fight against RKC and its craftsmen. There are demons and priests of the old gods. The worldbuilding is impressive. The setting of the city, the powerful magical forces at play, the intrigue and power plays that course through the novel raise this fantasy to the highest levels. Immediately upon finishing it, I bought the first book in the series, which has different character entirely. That's how good this book is.

Caleb Altomec is employed as a risk manager by RKC. A noted card sharp he has lost his way and now seems to be barely holding his own -- even in the card games he used to dominate.

When a man is found murdered at one of the lakes that supplies fresh drinking water to the city, Altomec is sent to assess the problem. But instead of a mere murder, Altomec finds a plot is afoot to poison the city's drinking water, which is befouled by a Tzimet, a type of shape changing monsgter, who now inhabits the water. The monster could not have gotten into the water by accident.

While on site, Altomec comes across Mal, attractive cliff runner, who may have evidence about the damaged water supply, but she will not come in and he ends up giving chase to the experienced parkour practitioner. She easily outdistances him, but before he loses her trail he bets that he can beat her at her own game.

While Altomec has been biding his time, his father, Tomec, one of the more powerful priests of the old gods, has been rebelling against RKC. Tomec is an Eagle Knight with power from his gods etched into his skin. But Tomec claims that he was not involved in the water attack.

Altomec uses his own power, granted from his father to track down Mal and is able to beat her. Altomec also bears the scars of old gods on his skin, and is able to fight against Craft. Soon Altomec and Mal are in a relationship, neither revealing the extent of their powers.

Meanwhile, RKC is about to merge with another huge concern Heartstone Holdings, which is run by a former enemy Alaxic who employs Mal Kekapania as his chief craftswoman. Heartstone controls abundant water, which RKC needs to feed its teeming metropolis of 18 million. Heartstone also has access to the Twin Serpents, powerful godlike lizards, which Heartstone has tapped to power its Craftsmen spells. Mal is a superior Craftswoman, but Alaxic, has not given up his battle against RKC.

When RKC suffers another water attack -- which immobilizes the Red King, it will be up to Altomec, his father and his friend Teo to save the city. Altomec is no longer biding his time. He is all in and fighting the fight of his life for his city, RKC, and his friends against a powerful craftsman augmented by the powerful twin serpents.

This is an exceptional fantasy.

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