Fantasy with a Side of Assassin

Ken Scholes is an Oregon author of a five volume series titled the Psalms of Isaak (Lamentation, Canticle and Antiphon; Requiem and Hymn are still forthcoming). While this series has all the trappings of traditional epic fantasy he's really describing a post-technological society that has collapsed into near barbarism; the "magic" is all that remains of technology. While I normally don't enjoy audio books, the first is well worth listening to. It's a great production with different readers for each character's chapters.

Long ago there was a great civilization ruled by wizard kings. After a great war the world was destroyed by fire, disease and madness. Now much of the world is a terrible wasteland filled with rubble. Legends of the world before the destruction abound. One character tells another that there's a green place on the moon because one of the wizards went up there and created a great garden in which to live (and might be there still...). There are mechanical servants, dug out of the rubble and repaired and little mechanical birds act as message bearers.

We're introduced to this world when the city of Windwir is destroyed by a "great spell" that consumes everything in a blast of noise, wind, light and fire. The only survivor is a boy waiting for his mentor on a hill far outside the city. The blast is so powerful that it knocks him senseless. Windwir had a great library run by an order of monks, an archive of all the knowledge of the ancient world. The monks went out into the wastelands to scavenge old papers or bits of technology. They carefully doled out this knowledge in order to maintain power. A steam engine here, a bit of medicine there, some books to this king and some to that merchant lord; the weapons were never let out into the world.

The destruction of the library creates a power vacuum. The lords jockey for power and the remaining scraps of knowledge. There are also two competing sets of prophecies and in the finest human tradition the two factions are merrily slaughtering each other. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one character, so we hear from the stripling boy who survived the destruction, Rudolfo, a lord of one of the kingdoms, and a mechanical servant who is self aware enough to go by a name instead of a number. The world is well developed and the characters interesting. It's a great read for anyone who likes a lot of politics and power struggles (best served with a side of assassin.)