What an extraordinary story. It takes place in an alternate England, where magic and its users are to be strictly regimented, constrained by laws and prevailing ruling opinion. Anything or anyone with opposing viewpoints or uses of magic are quickly apprehended, accused of treason, and sent off to the impenetrable Blackwood Gaol to “await “ trail.
Magical, depressing Blackwood Gaol, who’s dampener’s prevent any of its prisoners from using their magic. Runes inscribed onto manacles, or embedded into the very walls themselves, seem to crush the very essence of magic within those jailed there.
We start with the journey of Dr. Thomas Brighton, imprisoned,accused of using dangerous magic . He’s a professor of theological magic but now he’s being thrown into a single dark cell in Blackwood. In an instant he’s gone from esteemed introverted college professor to someone who has lost everything.
It becomes a intimate portrait of a man in isolation, learning what it means to be deprived of nutrition, stimulation, references of times. We see it lead to bouts of depression, poor health as the cold and non existent meals tear at his physical condition, especially the loss of the magic that’s always been such a essential part of him. It’s raw, gritty, and real.
The person in the cell next to him? Winter, convicted of treason and murder. First a disembodied voice , then a hand, through a tunnel.
The relationship these two people build is at first tenuous. Especially when Thomas finds out that Winter is unapologetic about their murder sentence.
But isolation has let Thomas have more time to think about all those preconceived notion’s he’s held , about magic, and non-binary Winter is about to have a few more revelations to come.
The story builds , towards a February execution date for Winter and a increasingly questionable trial date for Thomas, as they talk, learn about each other’s magic and history.
I thought this was just a masterpiece of speculative fiction. The universe is created, the people clearly seen in those cells, for all the walls around them, and the HFN ending just amazing.
There’s two previous stories I haven’t read . I will get to those asap.
Meanwhile, put Winter’s Dawn (Flos Magicae #3) by Arden Powell on your Must Read List. It’s incredible.
I’m highly recommending it.
The Botanist’s Apprentice #1
The Batchelor’s Valet #2
Winter’s Dawn #3
Thomas Brighton, a professor of theoretical magic, has been accused of treason. Imprisoned in the bleak Blackwood Gaol as he awaits his trial, he is cut off from his magic and his studies: a fate worse than death for the scholar who has devoted his life to academia. His only company is Winter, the mysterious prisoner in the neighbouring cell. As Thomas’ trial drags nearer, their whispered conversations are the only thing keeping him from giving in to boredom and despair.
Winter is a radical, a murderer, and a traitor to the crown. Everything Thomas fears and looks down on. But as Blackwood continues to crush his spirit and his magic, Winter might be his only ally. And Thomas might be Winter’s only chance of escape. Because if Blackwood and its guards don’t kill them both, the hangman’s noose surely will.
Winter’s Dawn is a 24,000-word fantasy novella with a male lead and a nonbinary love interest. It is part of the Flos Magicae series, set in an alternate 1920s universe with magic. All the stories are standalone historical fantasy romances and can be read in any order