By Carl Slaughter: Elaine Isaak’s fourth novel in her Dark Apostle series, Elisha Mancer, came out in February in 2017 from DAW under the name E.C. Ambrose. Isaak’s international thriller, Bone Guard One: the Mongol’s Coffin, came out April 22. She has completed the manuscript for a Chinese epic historical fantasy novel. The research for the manuscript led to Bone Guard One.
England in the fourteenth century: a land of poverty and opulence, prayer and plague…witchcraft and necromancy.
As a child, Elisha witnessed the burning of a witch outside of London, and saw her transformed into an angel at the moment of her death, though all around him denied this vision. He swore that the next time he might have the chance to bind an angel’s wounds, he would be ready. And so he became a barber surgeon, at the lowest ranks of the medical profession, following the only healer’s path available to a peasant’s son.
Elisha Barber is good at his work, but skill alone cannot protect him. In a single catastrophic day, Elisha’s attempt to deliver his brother’s child leaves his family ruined, and Elisha himself accused of murder. Then a haughty physician offers him a way out: come serve as a battle surgeon in an unjust war.
Between tending to the wounded soldiers and protecting them from the physicians’ experiments, Elisha works night and day. Even so, he soon discovers that he has an affinity for magic, drawn into the world of sorcery by Brigit, a beautiful young witch…who reminds him uncannily of the angel he saw burn.
In the crucible of combat, utterly at the mercy of his capricious superiors, Elisha must attempt to unravel conspiracies both magical and mundane, as well as come to terms with his own disturbing new abilities. But the only things more dangerous than the questions he’s asking are the answers he may reveal.
Elisha, a barber-surgeon from the poorest streets of benighted fourteenth-century London, has come a long way from home. He was always skilled at his work, but skill alone could not protect him on the day that disaster left his family ruined and Elisha himself accused of murder. With no other options, Elisha accepted a devil’s bargain from Lucius, a haughty physician, to avoid death by hanging—by serving under the sadistic doctor as a battle surgeon of the king’s army, at the front lines of an unjust war.
Elisha worked night and day, both tending to the wounded soldiers and protecting them from the physician’s experiments. Even so, he soon found that he had a talent for a surprising and deadly sort of magic, and was drawn into the clandestine world of sorcery by the enchanting young witch Brigit—who had baffling ties to his past, and ambitious plans for his future. Yet even Brigit did not understand the terrible power Elisha could wield, until the day he was forced to embrace it and end the war…by killing the king.
Now, Elisha has become a wanted man—not only by those who hate and fear him, but by those who’d seek to woo his support. Because, hidden behind the politics of court and castle, it is magic that offers power in its purest form. And the players in that deeper game are stranger and more terrifying than Elisha could ever have dreamed.
There are the magi, those who have grasped the secrets of affinity and knowledge to manipulate mind and matter, always working behind the scenes. There are the indivisi, thought mad by the rest of the magical world: those so devoted to their subject of study that they have become “indivisible” from it, and whose influence in their realm is wondrous beyond even the imaginations of “normal” magi. And then there are—there may be—the necromancers, whose methods, motives, and very existence remain mysterious. Where rumors of their passing go, death follows.
But death follows Elisha, too.
Elisha was a skillful barber-surgeon, cutting hair and stitching wounds for poor peasants like himself in 14th century London. But that was before catastrophe ruined his family. Before he was falsely accused of murder, and sent to die in an unjust war. Before he discovered his exceptional potential for a singularly deadly magic, and was forced to embrace his gifts and end that war…by using his newfound abilities to kill the tyrannical king.
Elisha is no longer the lowly barber he was, but it is hard to tell exactly who he is now. The beautiful witch Brigit, his former mentor, claims him for the magi, all those who have grasped the secrets of affinity and knowledge to manipulate mind and matter, and who are persecuted for it. Duke Randall, the man who first rose against the mad King Hugh, has accepted him as a comrade and ally in the perilous schemes of the nobility. Somehow, he has even become a friend to Thomas, both the rightful king and, something rarer, a good man.
But he is still a regicide, and in order to solidify Thomas’s authority among the restive barons, he had to let the new king sentence him to a horrific public execution. With Thomas’s covert aid, Elisha faked his death and went into hiding, but the peasants of London are beginning to call it a martyrdom, as legends of Elisha’s spectacular “miracles” in the service of his country have spread. Yet Elisha is finally beginning to understand the dreadful power within him, and he has never felt less holy—or more terrified.
Because there is another force at work in the world, a shadowy cabal beyond the might of kings and nobles, that sees its opportunity in the chaos of war and political turmoil—and sees its mirror in Elisha’s indivisible connection with Death. For these necromancers, Elisha is the ultimate prize, and the perfect tool.
When the necromancers’ secret plans begin to bear black fruit, England teeters on the brink of a hellish anarchy that could make the previous war look like a pleasant memory, and it appears Elisha is the only man who can stop it. But if he steps forward and takes on the authority he is offered to save his nation once again, is he playing right into the mancers’ hands?
Why does it seem like his enemies are the ones most keen to call him Elisha Rex?
Elisha was once a skilled barber-surgeon, but healing is no longer his finest art. After discovering his exceptional potential for a singularly deadly magic, Elisha has slain a king, stopped a war, and even had the regency thrust upon his own commoner’s head until he could rescue the true heir, Thomas.
With Thomas back on the throne of England, Elisha must now work on his king’s behalf to fight an even greater threat than civil war: the specter of the necromancers, a shadowy cabal that has already corrupted priests and princes, and that may have even grander, darker plans.
Elisha travels to the continent to warn England’s allies of the mancer threat, as well as to discover the full extent of the mancers’ plans. But it soon becomes clear that if he is to have any hope of stopping those plans from coming to fruition, he must forge new alliances in unexpected places—as well as embrace the terrifying magical abilities in his possession, a move he fears will make him into just the kind of man he strives against.
An ancient song leads to a deadly race to find Genghis Khan’s tomb.
Former special ops officer Grant Casey thought that the Bone Guard was a good idea. A team specializing in securing historically important archeological digs across the globe—how could it possibly fail? A distinct lack of clients indicates that the idealistic vision of the Bone Guard may not have been such a good idea after all.
Just when things seem doomed to fail, Casey runs into university researcher Liz Kirschner, who has just uncovered what looks like a map to Genghis Khan’s tomb. An assassination attempt, an arson at her research library, and the bankroll of a mysterious Hong Kong billionaire clinches it: The Bone Guard has their first client.
Facing a Chinese government that wants to destroy the tomb of the man who conquered their land, the Bone Guard hunt for clues from Cambridge, England, to the steppes of inner Mongolia, the whole time dodging assassins, government police, and relying on a Hong Kong billionaire who seems to be manipulating them for his own ends.
As the forces converge on the map’s stunning archeological destination, Casey’s idea of the Bone Guard turns out to have been a very good one indeed.
ELAINE ISAAK SOCIAL MEDIA