Fire Wizard of book 4 in the Ghostspeaker Chronicles.
Johanna, Roald, Nellie and Loesie return undercover to the devastated city of Saardam. In the months since they fled, the Fire Wizard Alexandre has ruled the town with campaigns of death and fear, focused on the eradication of the Church of the Triune, the former state church of Saarland that doesn’t allow magic and that is more popular with the common people than with nobles.
Johanna meets up with underground members of the church, even though her little gift of magic makes her feel ambivalent about it. She knows that ousting Alexandre will require a powerful magician, something she and her followers do not have. What is more, Alexandre’s men discover the group, and the band of resistance fighters faces the showdown with the tyrant long before they’re even close to ready for it.
Here is a sample:
A man’s voice shouted at the bow of the ship. The sound echoed over the water in the still afternoon air.
Johanna sat up, dazed. She’d been lazing on the sloping covers of the ship’s hold, warmed by whatever little winter sunshine made its way over the hill on the western side of the river, and she must have fallen asleep.
She’d been exhausted. With her overnight trip to the farm of the Guentherite order, she had barely slept the previous night, and after their frantic escape from Florisheim, both the Lady Sara and the Prosperity had settled into a steady drift down the swollen river. There had been little for the refugees to do except rest. Until now, that was.
Ko, at the bow, had pulled in the team of sea cows and was directing them to the riverbank. Johanna let herself slide down the sloping cover and went up the front to join him.
They were in a bend in the river, and forest on the high bank had been cleared to make room for . . . yes, what exactly?
Or rather, what had it been?
Because clearly some disaster had happened recently, maybe as recently as last night, judging by the churned earth and the splintered stumps of wood that were still smouldering. The jumble of broken and shattered buildings stretched over most of the lower part of the sloping riverbank on the left hand side. A stately house surrounded by vineyards at the top of the hill remained untouched, but every other structure closer to the river was reduced to a pile of smoking rubble.
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