The river Irenicon was blasted though the middle of Rasenna in the 1347th year of Our Lady, created overnight by Concordian engineers. But Wave technology is mysterious, even to its creators; they never guessed the river would become conscious – and hostile. Now Giovanni, a guilt-ridden Concordian engineer, has been sent to bridge the Irenicon – not to reunite the sunder city, but to aid Concord’s mighty armies, for they have their sight set firmly on conquest and Rasenna is in their way.
Sofia Scaligeri, Rasenna’s young Contessa knows she has no chance of saving her city from Concordian domination unless she first unites its feuding factions, but this is an impossible task – until Giovanni starts to question his own allegiances. But times are changing, and whether the like it or not, the feuding families of Rasenna are going to have to change too: for Concord is once again preparing to release the Wave.
Irenicon is Aidan Harte’s debut novel. Aidan Harte has studied sculpting in Florence and currently works in Dublin. Prior to finding this new career Aidan was the creative mind behind the children’s tv show Skunk Fu. What caught my interest of Irenicon was the combination of the synopsis and the cover. The cover of Irenicon features a set of medieval knights with banners and barded horses and the mentioning that this story takes place in the year of 1347, but a bit contrasting to the cover are the bit of SF-y mentioning in the synopsis; mainly the wave technology. I was curious to how this story would unfold.
Irenicon is set in an alternate version of Europe, where one important thing in history did not occur. Christ was killed by Herod as a child before he could spread he spread his word across the world. Rome has been destroyed and the force that now reigns supreme is the empire of Concord. What is expected during the time in which Irenicon takes place is the ruling of cities by the Church, however since Christ never survived, there is change in this ruling. Concord is ruled by a group engineers and scientist with a clear hierarchal ranking. One smart engineer, Girolamo Bernoulli, managed to create a technology so powerful that it laid waste to the other city Rasenna that was warring to gain the upper hand against Concord. The Wave created a river that split the earth and everything in between, Rasenna included. Now that the wave has hit Rasenna, Concord doesn’t need to fear them any longer. However the wave has brought some other things along with it that even the smartest engineers couldn’t have thought of… the river Irenicon became sentient. And as a direct consequence the division of Rasenna has brought along hate, envy and family feuds to the north and south side of Rasenna.
In the beginning of the book you are introduced to two main protagonists, that you first follow separately and later their stories start to intermingle. Firstly there is soon-to-be Contessa Sofia Scaligeri, who lives in the northern part of Rasenna. Sofia should be the ruler of all of Rasenna as her lineage indicates but the constant hate and rivalry between the divided parts of Rasenna, won’t allow her to fulfil this goal. Sofia is in for an adventure to navigate through a thick political minefield. What was great to see about her character early was that she is quite stubborn; having been trained, under the directions of her tutor, Doctor, but as the story continues and by the introduction of the second protagonist, Giovanni, her perspectives seem to change. Seeing how much better a united people can act. Secondly you follow the story of Giovanni, an engineer from Concord, who is tasked with building a bridge across the Irenicon river to build a way for the might of Concord to cross and advance their reign. In this task, Giovanni faces a lot of challenges not only with construction of the bridge but also with the people of Rasenna, since the Concordian people are one hand held in regard and on the other hand are quite despised. Similar to Sofia, Giovanni’s character is in for quite some navigation and self-discovery to find out where his allegiances really lie. I like how Aidan put Giovanni in several encounters where he had to choose between the two sides and with all that happened, how Giovanni made some unexpected decisions. Overall the characters were just super to read about. Mainly due to the amount pages that Irenicon has, there was enough time and space reserved to show a great development.
The story of Irenicon started off a bit slow for me. I don’t really why this was. I think it is more the start-up of the story and the Italian words. All the titles and some other terms in the book are mentioned in Italian like Contessa and much more, I didn’t know what most of these words meant so I had to look them up to get the full meaning. Next to this the start-up did feel a bit too loose and that there wasn’t a clear direction into which the story was steered into. However after a quarter of the book I felt like I was present into the world of Irenicon. I must mention that there is no fault in the way that Aidan Harte wrote this story because the writing style is clear and does greatly manage to keep your attention to the pages. It is just that the introduction in the plot was done a bit slowly. But like I said once you’re in, you’re in to the finish. The latter part of the book really turns everything around, where there is the linear start up of building the bridge, there is complete turnaround of events too follow this all up. Irenicon is riddled with twists and turns and not only between the people of Concord and Rasenna but also between soldiers of Concord and the different families of Rasenna. This is maintained until the last page and greatly increases the pacing of the book.
Overall Irenicon is an impressive debut. The start of the book picks you up in a subtle way and doesn’t let you go until you’re finished. There are a lot of cool things in Irenicon that really blend the fantasy genre. Irenicon is best shelved as a historical fantasy but even as it is taking place in the 1400’s there is still this influence of, a for that time alien technology, which allows for an interesting storyline. It’s not full science fiction but the hints thrown in here and there they make a great promise. Next to this rich world, there is a great set of characters that truly come to life as you delve deeper and deeper into the story. Plot wise you are in for quite a surprise as almost everything that you would have guessed in turned around. Aidan Harte delivers with Irenicon an ambitious introduction into The Wave Trilogy, revealing a lot of the world but keeping more than enough secret. There are enough unexplored opportunities for the next books in the series.