The Relic Guild Trilogy - surprisingly good fantasy by a new author
Suddenly everyone wants the prostitute Clara, but not for her professional skills. She was kidnapped and locked in a warehouse with a man because someone knows her secret; that she's a shapeshifter in a city where magic use is illegal for humans. Drugged and unable to control herself she killed that man and now every bounty hunter in town is after her. She has fled into the complex Labyrinth surrounding town and one old woman is determined to save her. In reality Clara is simply the bait in an elaborate trap that is the next move in a plan to take over the universe. Too bad failure was only part of the plan.
In The Relic Guild (That is the name of the first book but I read an omnibus version so I won't be discussing the books seperately) the past and present are intertwined to create a complex story and a short review can only scratch the surface. The Labyrinth, and Labyrinth Town at its center are an artifically created "world" made by the powerful Timewatcher. Once the Labyrinth's passages contained portals to the cosmic islands populated by the Aelf. Lab Town itself exists to provide a place where the Aelf can meet and trade peacefully and is predominately populated by Humans. The Lab Town of the present has a desperate gritty feel and The Relic Guild is a shadowy organization that is little more than a legend. The surviving members went their seperate ways forty years earlier when a massive cosmic war ended and Lab town was cut off from the Aelf. But a strange Avatar has appeared to each of them to bring them back together because the followers of the cosmic enemy defeated in the war are back and their plan is still to destroy Lab Town, the Timewatcher, and control the Universe. Only now Lord Spire has spent forty years in torment and no one is sure if he remains sane, including his own followers.
The story of the past centers around the three members of the Relic Guild that survived the war. Marney, an empath and the guild's youngest agent is sent on a mysterious mission with her mentor through the war torn Houses and will learn something that makes the enemy plan an elaborate trap for her in the present. Samuel is their sharpshooter with a talent for sensing when his life is in danger and the ability to kill first. Always taciturn he is on site in Lab Town as they try to figure out what the enemy is trying to accomplish. The illusionist Van Bam is investigating Aelf complicity in the attack on Lab Town and also journeys into an Aelf House. Commanding them is the psychotic Resident Gideon whose blood magic talent makes him more of a danger each time he uses it. The only thing in their favor is that Lord Spire despises Humans and therefore underestimates them in the past. But in the present?
This is extremely difficult to slot into a genre more specific than Fantasy. Its a bit grimdark, gunpowder, and a mission impossible quest within an unusual setting.
The Relic Guild, The Cathedral of Known Things, and The Watcher of Dead Time are also available in audiobook form (narrated by Imogen Church) in addition to ebook. The omnibus edition is only available in ebook, but unless on sale there is no discount for buying the omnibus.