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Wandering Star

The Quintana Trilogy, Book 1
Narrated by: Steve Barnes
Length: 6 hrs and 35 mins
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)
Non-member price: $27.79
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Publisher's Summary

As one of the rulers of the ancient city of Quintana, Lord Carbón enjoys power and privilege that the lower castes of the city can only admire and envy. His wealth and status come from the coal mined atop the plateau and shipped across the Great Span, a mysterious bridge built during a legendary period of superscience.  

When miners discover a strange new artifact in the mines, maiming those who touch it and spawning deadly, shadowlike witherers, the discovery draws the attention of Salvatore, head of the secretive Luminoso cult. Hoarding ancient artifacts and terrorizing the city, the cabalists of the Luminoso temple collect scientific knowledge without understanding it, while watching the skies for heavenly signs, determined to bring about another golden age and crush any who meddle with their sacred prerogatives.  

After Salvatore closes the mines and threatens to shut the Great Span, Carbón organizes a secret group of his own, comprised of his young chancellor and her brother, the captain of the watch, and the aging patriarch of a rival family, who is torn between loyalty to his layabout son and his responsibilities caring for the Great Span. But their real enemy may not be Salvatore, but a hidden cabalist living in their midst who would use the crisis to seize control of both the Luminoso and the city that supports it.

©2018 Michael Wallace (P)2018 Michael Wallace

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  • The Round Reader
  • 11-02-2019

An Immersive Opening to a City in Silent Struggle.

The world Michael Wallace creates in this book is amazing. It isn't so alien as to take a lot of time to get used to, but is new and fascinating and left me wanting to explore more of it.

Quintana is a city where tradition, code, and hierarchy rule. These elements are reinforced by each other and not only keep the society running, but locks people into their place; the only way to go is down. Even the terraced housing- with the wealthiest five families at the top in lavish luxury, and the poorest of the poor levels beneath in squalor- echoes the strict social ranking.

The Festival of Fools felt dizzying and exciting but for all of its joviality, the hard backing of tradition, code, and hierarchy was still felt.

The world is lush with lore and detail that Wallace expertly weaves into the story without bombarding the reader (or listener) with too much information at once. As I moved through the story, I remembered details almost as if I'd known them all along.

The narration is wonderful and gives a lot of life to an already rich world.

Steve Barnes' voice is gentle and clear and easy to listen to. The voices he gives each character stand out against his general narration as if another person were speaking altogether.

Each voice matches its character wonderfully. Carbón's strong, resonant voice captures his thoughtfulness, patience, and kindness and was my favorite. Lord Torre had the careful cadence of a once strong man diminished physically by time but still just as quick and astute as ever. And Torre's nephew, Pedro, is so full of quiet sweetness and youth.

Each voice is so distinct that I never had trouble knowing who was speaking.

This was a wonderful introduction to this world and to the author. I bought the second book before even finishing this one. Highly recommended!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jas P
  • 11-01-2019

Outstanding Story, exceptional Characters

This is just the most incredible tale of fantasy and adventure I have listened to a in a while, Wallace has created such an in-depth world for his characters to engage on.
In this realm, Quintana, the city is tier based, and is built on a huge rift. There have been generations in the past that have wiped themselves out through war, leaving behind remnants of advanced technology, some minor trinkets, others include the massive stone bridge that allows access over the river into the city, and can be withdrawn if necessary, stopping transit in and out, protecting the city.
The city is ruled by 5 ruling Families, or the Quinta. Under this, there are the 40, which are the next 40 most powerful Families or People in the city, then the Thousand, and then the Dumbre, those that are left, or have fallen from above. For once you fall, you can’t rise again. It doesn’t stop those below from trying to reach up though. And there is fierce competition to stay in the 40, and even the Thousand, with each Tier having much improved living conditions in housing, water, and other amenities. Again, Wallace has created such a rich tapestry, bringing to life each of these tiers, exploring them and letting you understand what it is like to live within each. It is a fascinating tourist ride through Quintana for part of the book there is so much detail, as you listen to the story, you just get swept away in the book and the story.
Of the 5 ruling Families, we get to meet 3 of them, Lord Torre, Master of the Bridge, Lord Carbon, who is in charge of the Coal Mines and Lady Mercado who is in charge of finances. These seem to be the most powerful, as the city runs on coal, so Carbon basically can hold the city to ransom at anytime, Torre controls the bridge, so can stop transit of the major shipping lane in and out, there are some minor access points, but nothing that would provide enough food. And finally Mercado could wreak havoc with money.
Lady Mercado is one of the best characters in the book. At one point in the book, there is a special festival called the day of fools, in which everyone can party, sleep with whomever, bonds are forgotten, tiers are forgotten, there is a massive street party (paid for and supported by Mercado herself). Mercado opens up her house to anyone who wishes to come and look, but if you are caught on her property after curfew, it is the death penalty as per the code.
If you are not in your tier without just cause it is death. You can be below your tier, you are always allowed to down (but who would?), but you can never go up.
In the middle of all of this, there are dark creatures called Witherers that if they touch you, they basically suck the life energy out of you, turning you into a dried up husk. If you are touched by one and escape, the part is touched ‘Withers’ becoming black and withered, and within days you are dead, dying a slow painful death.
The story itself revolves around several plot lines involving Lord Carbon and his Chancellor, another brilliant Character, Lady Iiliana Diamante, one of the 40; Lord Torre, and the Cabalists, a sort of secret order made up of people from all the different tiers who collect information and secrets in exchange for money and favours, to very valuable commodities in a place where it is so easy to find yourself on the edge of the rift.
Of all the new series I have either listened to or read this year, this one has captured me the most, as it was so intriguing, with so many story lines, so much depth, and these exceptional characters. On top of that, there are these amazing evil creatures, and you do get to experience them in full flight. Each character has their own outstanding back story as well that Wallace gives you enough time to enjoy. On top of that, there are these amazing levels of the Quintara, also given such depth of description that you feel you have been on a tour to each of them.
Each of the characters, and to a large extent, the levels of the Quintara, are so cleverly intertwined together to create this outstanding story, this fascinating tale of intrigue, mystery, lies and deception, and of course, corruption and power, all of it to keep a city running against not just incredible odds, but horrendous creatures, and devices from a technological age long gone. This is one of the most fascinating books I have absorbed in a long time.
This is absolutely a book that must be read by anyone who is a Wallace fan, but anyone who loves Fantasy should be grabbing this and reading it as it is exceptional.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful