For those launching into later books in the Burnished City trilogy, here’s a reminder of the key events of book 1!
(Spoilers below! That’s the whole point! 😄)
Siyon Velo is a Dockside brat living rough and scraping a living from petty alchemy and raiding the other planes of reality for ingredients to sell to the upperclass azatani practitioners of alchemy in the Summer Club. (You know, the ones who don’t have to worry about the Inquisitors breathing down their necks.) His life is already a scramble before he impossibly catches Zagiri Savani falling from the Clock Tower, and delivers her to her sister, Anahid Joddani. The feat sees him getting a lot of new attention – from the inquisitors and Summer Club alchemists alike – but everything is tipped upside down when the Prefect’s son Enkin disappears from the Summer Club with the sharp taint of alchemy in the air.
As the inquisitors – and especially the zealous Vartan Xhanari – start to crack down on alchemy in their hunt for Enkin, Siyon shelters with the Joddani, and is offered an impossible – but audacious – commission by Izmirlian Hisarani, who wants to step outside reality altogether. While Zagiri is learning about the uneven consequences of inquisitor zealousness, and Anahid is exploring a new friendship and a new hobby at the carrick tables, Siyon learns more about alchemy and what he can do with it, about the imbalance of the planes that threatens to tip reality out of balance, and about the fascinating Izmirlian.
When Siyon’s mentor, Auntie Geryss, fails in a public ritual to summon Enkin back, the inquisitors’ grip on the city tightens; when Anahid’s husband Nihath fails in his ritual to become the Power of the Mundance and soothe the planar imbalance, the inqs close in. With the city on lockdown and Nihath arrested, it’s no wonder the bravi are overrun with alchemists wanting to be smuggled out of the city. But Siyon figures out where Enkin has gone (to the Abyssal plane, with – it turns out – a demonic lover) and drags him back home.
Hailed as a hero and given access to unprecedented alchemical resources, Siyon learns that perhaps the vaunted father of alchemy, Kolah Negedi, doesn’t have all the answers. It’s time for a new approach, and with Izmirlian’s commission to leave reality (unfortunately) progressing speedily, Siyon looks like the only one who has the creativity and the skills to possibly become the Power of the Mundane. But his first attempt fails, and now everything is coming apart, with Izmirlian catatonic, and Enkin, the Prefect’s son, slipping into an unnatural fever. Trashing his previous work, Siyon welcomes his arrest at the hands of the inquisitors.
But his friends won’t give up on him. They come together – alchemists, bravi, azatani and the newly wakened Izmirlian – to support Siyon, and Anahid blackmails her new friend into getting Siyon a second chance. None of it’s easy, of course. Siyon brings back Laxmi, Enkin’s demon lover, from the Abyss, but then has to flee the Palace. As the inquisitors close in, Siyon prepares a second ritual to become the Power in Anahid’s parlour, but Inquisitor Xhanari bursts in, shooting Izmirlian fatally. Both Siyon and Izmirlian fall into the void between planes, along with the Powers of the other planes, and Siyon trades the completion of Izmirlian’s ambition – to push the dying man beyond the bounds of reality entirely – for him taking up the Power of the Mundane.
As the dust settles, Siyon makes plans to move into Auntie Geryss’s abandoned apartment, Zagiri makes plans to attend her coming-of-age ball, and Anahid receives a visit from Izmirlian’s mother, who makes it clear she will not be dropping the matter of her son’s disappearance…
(Read on in Shadow Baron!)