Monday, July 20, 2009

Would you read this book?

The Gods in the Jungle: one page synopsis

The jungle city of Bassakesh holds the keys to the future of the Vreski Empire. This small city in the jungle is the sole source of the Vedegga dye, which generates enormous wealth for those who control its production and trade. Delesse, the Governor's daughter, is marrying Loken - heir to one of the most powerful families in the Empire. While Loken travels to Bassakesh to collect his betrothed, Delesse learns the secrets of keeping a man happy from Julyeis and Shapeis, Servants employed by her mother, Temis.

Servants are a society within a society: the Servants of Bassakesh are led by Maeduul - the Story Keeper - who also happens to be Temis's companion, given to her by the Emperor himself as a wedding gift. As preparations for the ceremony continue, a new Servant - Kebezzu - arrives in the city: her work is to spread the prophesies of the 'Burning Woman'. Many Servants find her message appealing, but Maeduul mistrusts her, and asks Julyeis to keep an eye on the woman and the child she has brought with her, whom Kebezzu claims is a reincarnation of the Burning Woman.

Loken arrives in Bassakesh accompanied by his uncle, Loetopas, and his friend Sheslan. Another surprise arrival is Feyn, Temis's oldest sister and the Emperor's longstanding mistress, along with Imperial soldiers led by Commander Behin, who is a childhood friend of Tuuke, the Guardsman of Burramesh. On the evening of the contract ceremony Julyeis discovers Sheslan suffering from a high fever; fearful that he may be carrying a deadly plague, she moves him to a place where he is discovered by Imperial soldiers, but they are unable to save him.

Tuuke investigates Sheslan's death, learning that he is an unintended victim of a plan by Loetopas to disrupt the dye harvest. Tuuke also uncovers Kebezzu's work among the Servants who harvest the dye. But he is too late: plague engulfs the city, killing many. As chaos descends, Loken publicly repudiates his family - his uncle and father had murdered his older, disabled brother - and stays in the city to help while Loetopas escapes by boat upriver to the city of Viyame. Kebezzu also convinces many of the Servants to leave the city and leads them on foot through the jungle towards the refuge of the 'hidden settlements' north of Viyame.

As the plague subsides, Feyn convinces Temis that the best opportunity to save her children and the city is to let her take Delesse and Loken to the Old City, where the Emperor has his court. Tuuke is also keen to chase down Loetopas, and Maeduul is determined to stop Kebezzu. Maeduul reveals that Bassakesh, isolated as it is from the rest of the country, is the main plank of a secret experiment by the Emperor to end the caste divisions that bedevil his Empire. But as they journey upriver their boat is boarded by Behin, who reveals that the Emperor is dead and he has been ordered to arrest them all.

Meanwhile Shapeis and Julyeis become separated as they walk through the jungle; Julyeis finds the river and is rescued by Delesse and Loken, while Shapeis stays with Kebezzu and looks after her child. Tuuke learns much from Julyeis about the Servants' plans. When they arrive in Viyame, the Bassakeshi convince Behin that they must work to stop Loetopas and his brother Puusen gaining the throne, and bring them to justice for unleashing plague on their city. Together, they capture Kebezzu and Shapeis, leaving the way clear for Loken and Delesse to confront Loetopas. When he attempts to murder them both, Tuuke kills him.

This story, which takes place on a planet far from Earth, is an investigation of the drives and beliefs of the various strata of a crumbling society, through the eyes of those immediately involved in the events which bring an Empire to its knees.

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