It is the year 1537. The great winged Lion stares over a Venice where magic thrives. The rich Venetian Republic is a bastion of independence and tolerance. Perhaps for that reason, it is also corrupt, and rotten with intrigue.
But for the young brothers Marco and Benito Valdosta, vagabond and thief, Venice is simply home. They have no idea that they stand at the center of the city's coming struggle for its very life. They know nothing of the powerful forces moving in the background. They have barely heard of Chernobog, demonlord of the North, who is shifting his pawns to attack Venice in order to cut into the underbelly of the Holy Roman Empire. All Marco and Benito know is that they're hungry and in dangerous company: Katerina the smuggler, Caesare the sell-sword, Montagnard assassins, church inquisitors, militant Knights of the Holy Trinity, Dottore Marina the Strega mage ...and Maria. Maria might be an honest canaler, but she had the hottest temper a boy could find.
Yet among the dark waters of the canals lurk far worse dangers than a hot-tempered girl. Chernobog has set a monster loose to wreak havoc on the city. Magic, murder and evil are all at work to pull Venice down. Fanatical monks seek to root out true witchcraft with fire and sword. Steel-clad Teutonic knights, wealth traders, church dignitaries and great Princes fight and plot for control of the jewel of the Mediterranean.
And somehow all of these, from thieves to mages to princes, must gather around Marco and his brother Benito, under the shadow of the great winged lion of Venice.
Mercedes Lackey is a full-time writer and has published numerous novels and works of short fiction, including the best-selling Heralds of Valdemar series. She is also a professional lyricist and a licensed wild bird rehabilitator. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband, artist Larry Dixon, and their flock of parrots. She can be found at mercedeslackey.com. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Eric Flint is a modern master of alternate history fiction, with three million books in print. He’s the author/creator of the multiple New York Times best-selling Ring of Fire series, starting with first novel 1632. With David Drake he has written six popular novels in the “Belisarius” alternate Roman history series, and with David Weber he has collaborated on 1633 and 1634: The Baltic War,as well as four novels in Weber's Honorverse series.Flint was for many years a labor union activist. He lives near Chicago, Illinois.