Let me admit here, before we begin, that I’m biased. Gwen’s a friend, and I have loved her writing and the creativity of her plotting since before her first book hit print. Now that that’s out of the way, I’m going to encourage you highly to check out her first book, The Universal Mirror, which Amazon is giving away FREE today and tomorrow (5/2/2012-5/3/2012). You can read all about it on her blog, along with her thoughts on the idea of giving away her book for free.
I’ve already read the book, and I loved it. It’s not YA, but I wouldn’t have any problem giving this book to my teen reader. I do need to give it to my husband, who hasn’t read it yet, since I think he’ll enjoy it too. For myself, it was the characters that drew me in, and the moral dilemmas presented, which are completely my cup of tea. I’m not going to say much about the book itself, other than to quote the blurb she posted:
“Not blood nor bone shall magic touch.”
On the island of Cercia, God is dead, killed by his followers and replaced with the study of magic. But the people are suspicious of magicians, believing them the cause of ill fortune. If the magicians aren’t kept in check, the people believe that they might wrestle God from his grave and take the universe for their own keeping. So the universities train magicians in the use of magic, as well as in the restrictions — or Heresies — that bind it. Magicians must not leave their homeland; they must not cast spells on the living—whether to harm or to heal.
Quentin, a young nobleman, and his friend Asahel are both magicians. But they come from very different backgrounds. Quentin belongs to an old bloodline, though his grandfather has whittled away the last of his family’s fortune. Asahel, on the other hand, always smells of the sea, his face smudged with dirt. He was decidedly out-of-place at the universities that trained magicians, since most of them came from the upper classes. Everyone but Quentin tormented Asahel in school; their curiosity,even now, is what binds them together. They both long to explore magic, rather than cage it.
Now, Quentin desperately dreams of healing the woman that he loves, Catharine. Catharine is pitted and scarred from the Plagues which came to Cercia just before she reached womanhood. She wants no part of Quentin because of her self-hatred, disliking it if he so much as looks at her. This husband and wife rarely talk, and what little time they spend together is fraught with tension. But Quentin adores Catharine. If he is to save her from herself, he must be able to use his magic to heal.
Learning to heal will take an act of desperation, an unthinkable rebellion — practicing on the bodies of the dead. It is madness — but Quentin convinces Asahel to go along with his plan. Under the cover of darkness, they dig up a grave to work a magic that affects life itself. Afterward, Quentin feels a terrible guilt for involving Asahel, who had defied authority by his friend’s side. Both of them are unaware that the search for this lost magic will bring them both to the edge of reason, threatening their very souls. How far are they willing to go for the sake of knowledge? What will they destroy to obtain it?
There are several Hydra Publications books available for free at the same time, and I’m definitely planning on checking some of them out. I’m hoping to find new authors that I will continue to follow through their publishing career. I encourage everyone to do the same!
EDIT: If you want to see the list of books from Hydra, the list is available on their site.