- Title: Merchants of Knowledge and Magic
- Author: Erika McCorkle
- Series: The Pentagonal Dominion, #1
- Genre: Fantasy
- Publishing Date: April 4th, 2022
- Publishing Co.: Indie
- Length: 499 pages
- Format: Kindle, Paperback
- Acquired: Given ebook to judge for WriteHive’s Indie Ink Awards 2022
- Amazon Link: Merchants of Knowledge and Magic
On one of the many planes of the Pentagonal Dominion, priestess Calinthe trades in information, collecting valuable secrets for her demonic employer. Calinthe has a secret of her own: she’s intersex, making her a target for the matriarchal slavers of the Ophidian Plane whose territory she must cross in her search for hidden knowledge. But thanks to her friend Zakuro’s illusions, Calinthe presents as a woman—a comfortable, if furtive, existence in a world determined to bring her to heel.
But when, instead of a mere secret, the priestess uncovers an incalculably powerful artifact, Calinthe finds herself in a high-stakes negotiation with the same matriarchs who sought to enslave her. On the table: Calinthe’s discovery, a charm powerful enough to transform a mortal into a god… against a secret so deadly it could quell all life on every plane of the dominion. If Calinthe plays her cards perfectly, she and Zakuro could escape Ophidia wealthier than either of them ever dreamed possible.
But if she plays them wrong… she’ll learn slavery in her pursuers’ hands is a fate far worse than death.
Final Judgment: 4 Stars out of 5
Content Warning for novel: On-page: Death, Rape and sexual assault, Slavery, including sexual slavery and enslaved children, Torture, Sexism, Transphobia, Interphobia, Suicidal ideation, Graphic violence, Adult language, Forced drug use. Alluded to: Incest, Physical abuse of children, Child abduction. 18+
I judged this novel for WriteHive’s Indie Ink Awards 2022! I am unable to share the specific award that it was nominated for, as the judging is still going on, but be on the look-out! It could win 🙂
McCorkle creates a complex and diverse world upon worlds, as each touches different planes of the universe. These worlds are filled to the brim with magic, gods, demons, and all manners of sentient beings. Calinthe, a Merchant of Knowledge, travels these planes with her companion Zakuro, collecting ignorance for the God of Ignorance while simultaneously completing missions for said God. All Calinthe wants is to be able to retire and live the rest of her life comfortably with Zakuro. And as soon as she collects enough secrets to buy that retirement from the God of Ignorance, she can.
A unique and astounding world, a reader could get lost simply wandering the planes and meeting the multitudinous beings. It can be a bit overwhelming at first, as one attempts to decipher the rules of these different worlds–and they all vary! In some, being a woman is a crime. In others, all those who are not women are enslaved. Calinthe, being intersex, is endangered in several. The utter diversity of the characters–sexual orientation, romantic orientation, gender expression, race, etc.–is one of the best parts of the novel. We readers can see firsthand the discrimination placed on different beings, simply because of one facet of who they are. It’s a much larger picture than simply black and white. It gives us another perspective.
The worldbuilding is phenomenal, the diversity of characters is inspiring, and the writing style, too, is smooth and easy to read. There are small snippets of other POVs throughout the novel, giving us a deeper dive into other characters while still focusing on our main girl, Calinthe. Absolutely worth it. I want to know EVERYTHING about these characters.
The one thing that put me only slightly off this novel was its pacing and plot. It seemed so much like simply wandering around these worlds, with no purpose, simply exploring. To be fair, there was a purpose, but Calinthe didn’t seem too into focusing on it, nor did I, the reader, have any motivation to look further. Instead, the pacing was slow and meandering.
Additionally, there are a LOT of trigger warnings at the top of this post. The second half of the novel is a pure torture scene, with no fading to black. Be prepared to be disgusted, frustrated, and aggrieved. It can absolutely take its toll on you.
Overall, a great epic fantasy novel for those hardcore fantasy readers who don’t blanch at graphic violence and cruel torture tactics. It’s the first in a series, and I am interested to see where this goes from here!