Review by Paul Melko
Young Thomas, apprentice apothecary from London, on a voyage to open a trade route from Cathay, finds himself caught in a web of intrigue, all tied around a powder that has the power of life and death. Originally bound west to find a trade route through the Straits of Magellan, the trading fleet heads east around Africa, looking for easy pickings along the African coast. Off the coast of India, the fleet turns privateer against a Portuguese galley. Aboard is the alchemist sorcerer De Cartago and the mysterious priestess Aditi. Thomas, with the help of the Scotsman Andrew Lockheart, gains some intimacy with the two and obtains possession of the Blood of the Goddess.
When the trading crew is betrayed to the Portuguese, Thomas finds himself an English man in Portuguese-held Goa, a city caught in the clutches of the Inquisition, a Church-headed purge that has been corrupted in the quest for power. He must use all his abilities to escape the Inquisitor and find the source of the powder that brings life.
Dalkey is to be applauded for her historical research. The setting of late 14th century India for this historical fantasy is an excellent choice. Relying heavily on alchemical lore and Greek myth for her magical system, Dalkey creates a universe only a step or two away from our own universe: real, mysterious, and compelling.
The characters are dynamic and interesting, especially the resourceful young Thomas and the roguish Andrew Lockheart. The plot is well-paced, perhaps too fast-paced in some spots, the problem being that some key elements seem to be glossed over in the desire for the author to get somewhere specific. In this multi-volume epic, one would think that Dalkey could afford to be a little more thorough on the plot smoothness.
Compared to Dalkey's Sagamore series with its weak humor and sophomoric tone, this book is much more mature and balanced. In fact, Goa is the best this reviewer has seen from Dalkey. I look forward to the next books in the series.
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