The imagery was fantastic, putting me right into a world I hope I never have to live in. The characters pull you in, to a point where you can identify with (almost) all of them, even if you don't want to. It's a book I will most definitely read again.
(J. Rigiel, Amazon.com)
In Cartesia, no one is free except for those who don’t understand the meaning of the word. The Council, populated and run by deviants and murderous politicians, have reduced nearly all cities to either impoverished wastelands or places operated solely for their hedonism. But the Shakespeare-loving vigilante named Shal has had enough of the Council’s tyranny and she’s going to put an end to them once and for all.
Her struggle to protect her stepsister, escape Malay Prison, avenge her father’s death, and do it all without being sent to the Herald of the dead called the Capesman, takes her on a maddening journey of war and emotion she’d never seen coming; especially not with only one eye.
From the Herald’s Wearied Eye follows Shal, a soldier named Raoul, and the Capesman through the world of Cartesia where the good live underground, God is long dead, and even one’s own mind cannot be trusted.
O’er the deserts of desperation
And tedious drifts of despair
There stands a man at the Crossroads
Waiting to usher you there
Through rivers of ruined redemption
And blessings broken in bond
There stands a man at the Crossroads
Waiting to take you beyond
With horn in hand, he calls you
To drink with those fallen before
There stands a man at the Crossroads
To open the amaranthine door
From the herald’s wearied eye
Breaks a new sunset and dawn
The Capesman stands at the Crossroads
To carry us all ever on.
The day of placement was greyer than any impending winter upon the sky, mostly because the choice of placement was concrete in its finality. Marius knew as he stood before the crowd of Councilmen that the past months of speeches and declarations had all been meaningless. Words don't matter when titles scream, and every title slapped on every soulless politician that approached the podium screamed, "Obey or be cast Underground!" It was an obvious decision, had there been a decision to make, and after it all, Marius not only became a lesser man, he became a banished man.
How long had it been since she first came to Malay? Four years? Five? Wasted years that could have been glorious times of discovery and ascension had become forced redemption and needless rehabilitation. Of course, she battled the forces that tried to tame her, but her rebel message to the men of Malay was not accepted with quiet judgment. The prison was so fierce that the building itself had fists and fangs, and although the guards were merely puppets of Malay's ferocity, they were puppets with iron claws that longed to tear the convicts’ flesh apart, as well as their dreams.
The prison was built upon an island two thousand miles off of the coast of the Cascade Quadrant. It was nearly the size of the massive Quadrant itself, but to Shal, it was suffocatingly small. Every wall seemed to pull towards her until she felt crushed by the stone slabs. To all others, Malay was immense, and it was filled with so many prisoners that even with as social as she was, there were still some cons that Shal didn't know. Every other week, a new shipment of prisoners arrived at, but barely half survived the first six months and at least three died the first night; most of the time by their own design. Death was often considered a gift in a place such as this.
Besides the considerable number of cells, there was also a mess hall that left much to be desired in the way of nourishment. There was hardly enough food to go around, and many of the weaker prisoners went without eating for days at a time because of bullies stealing their portions. But forgoing a meal or two was sometimes welcome considering Warden Grejous’ fondness of lacing their lunches. Most of the time, the drugs were just tranquilizers, but once in a while, he threw in something that would make the cons violently ill; just for a change. But despite the dangers of the mess hall, there were far more harrowing places within the prison.
It was the home for the worst of the worst. There were no petty thieves or simple vandals at Malay, and because of the severity of the convicts' crimes and their penchant for violent rebellion, there had to be extreme repercussions for any and all violations. Even minor infractions such as falling out of line during work detail earned convicts a trip to the Control Room. Its official name, according to Malay pamphlets, was the Darwin Center of Therapy for Patients of Severe Mental Deterioration. In actuality, it was a torture chamber filled with extravagant devices fashioned to break the will, and sometimes the bones, of whoever dared defy the Warden and his cronies.
Each machine was associated with certain infractions: cursing at a guard or sleeping through call for work detail merited a goodly length of time in the Slicer. A prisoner was strapped into a chair that had numerous mechanical arms attached to it, and each arm was tipped with razor blades. When activated, the arms would swing around the con and shallowly slice his or her face, arms, legs, and belly. But because it was the least torturous of the Control Room devices, a stint in the Slicer lasted longer than any other machine. The Jumper: a five foot by seven foot iron box with a scalding floor, ceiling, and sides, and the Juicer: a mechanical arm that was inserted into the mouth to induce vomiting were far more painful punishment. Although the Control Room was built fairly deep into the bowels of Malay, one could quite frequently hear tormented screams break across the night. Everyone knew that such cries were usually preceded by the sound of bones bent by the machines. If a bone was broken, however, the Doc would give remedy by way of a metal splint fastened to the leg with screws. The procedure allowed the prisoner to return to normal activities, usually in more pain. Because of the antibiotic salve slathered across the affected area, however, there was no chance of infection. The Doc performed such procedures with such lightning speed that Shal often thought that were her head removed, the Doc could reattach it and have her back at work before her blood could turn cold.
The Doc wasn’t famous only for his barbaric remedies though; he also operated the ominous Dream Machine. It was hard to get a sense of what the device really was because everyone who had experienced the machine either returned to the community without their sanity or didn’t return at all. Supposedly, it was able to access one’s memory and cause the sensation of reliving selected periods of time, but because it invaded the deepest recesses of the mind, the con was frequently left trapped in their memories, unable to return to reality. Shal wished the concept of getting trapped in the past didn’t sound so appealing to her, but with the passing years and ever-widening holes of lost time in her own memory, she was more than a little intrigued by the prospect of sensory recovery.
As they usually did, the years flew by in retrospect. Her time in Malay seemed to be spent faster than any years prior, as if the prison was a weird kind of temporal vacuum. It sucked the life out of her and stole the vibrant years of her twenties. She could've been a chemist or an archeologist; she'd always wanted to be an archeologist, but the regret that she'd never dug up artifacts for a living was not as sorrowful as the regret that she'd never finish her magnum opus if she remained stuck in prison. She would never get to kill the men who needed killing, but no matter what, her mind killed them every night.