Suppose, just for a moment, that King Richard I (the Lion-Hearted) didn’t die of an arrow wound in 1199, as we were taught. How different might’ve English history been? Perhaps King Richard would have gone on to create a stable empire encompassing not only Britain, but France, Ireland, and the New World of New England and New France.
The time is the late 1960s, an era in which the benevolent and well-loved King John IV rules the Angevin Empire, an empire that has enjoyed stability for hundreds of years. It is an Empire of lords and ladies, dukes and duchesses, of grand chivalry and courtly manners. The only threat to the Empire’s peace lies to the East, in the Polish Empire, ruled by the despotic King Casimir IX. For some years now, Casimir has been determined to increase his sphere of influence … by fair means when possible, by any means when necessary.
In this world, science, as we know it, is largely the province of superstition. Instead, magic – real, verifiable, useful magic – sanctioned and controlled by the Church, has taken the place of science. The laws of magic have been carefully formulated and codified in scholarly textbooks. Those who would practice magic must have the Talent. The Talent is inborn, and if a person has it, that person may study, pass tests, and be licensed as a Master Sorcerer. It is highly illegal to practice magic without a license from the Church.
Naturally, all is not sweetness and light in His Majesty’s Empire. Crime, for example, is as much a problem as in our world. If the crime is serious enough, perhaps a murder involving a member of the nobility, then a Chief Investigator must by law be called in on the case. And, more often than not, that investigator will be Lord Darcy, the Chief Investigator for His Highness the Duke of Normandy.
In his investigations, Master Sean O Lochlainn, Chief Forensic Sorcerer to His Majesty, usually accompanies Lord Darcy. Master Sean’s appearance, small and tubby, belies a sharp mind and a first-class magical Talent. Together, the two men solve cases and catch miscreants much in the manner of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
Lord Darcy was created by Randall Garrett and appears in a number of stories and novels. They’re excellent, well-crafted reads set in a fascinating alternate universe, and fortunately they’re still in print:
Too Many Magicians
At a grand magicians’ convention, one of their number is found murdered. The evidence points strongly to Master Sean. It seems a simple matter for Lord Darcy to clear his friend and wrap up the case … until espionage, intrigue, and Lord Darcy’s cunning relatives enter the case.
Murder and Magic
In The Eyes Have It, Lord Darcy is summoned when the lecherous Count D’Evreux is found dead. Was he killed by a jealous husband … a scorned mistress ... or someone closer?
The problem seems to be A Case of Identity when one of His Majesty’s personal agents, working undercover in the Polish Empire, disappears. But whose body is it that’s been found?
A body stained blue, hidden in someone else’s coffin, lands Lord Darcy and Master Sean in The Muddle of the Woad. Did an outlawed secret society exact vengeance on Lord Camberton?
Lord Darcy’s next case takes him to the world of authors and publishers, and it’ll take A Stretch of the Imagination to figure out exactly how Lord Arlen died in this locked-room mystery. Fortunately, Master Sean has a few tricks up his sleeve …
Lord Darcy Investigates
Lord Darcy considers the murder of the Count de la Vexin to be A Matter of Gravity. But how was the Count killed? More than Master Sean’s magic may be required to solve this case.
His Majesty’s sorcerers have perfected a new, top-secret device. But The Ipswich Phial has been lost, and Lord Darcy must keep it out of Polish hands – no matter what he has to do!
In The Sixteen Keys, Lord Darcy and Master Sean must discover who killed Lord Vauxhall, and made off with the Treaty of Roumeleia, before the peace crafted after the 1939 war with Poland is ruined.
A murder aboard a train
, a group of suspects, and a secret courier
. Who committed murder aboard The Napoli Express
, and where is the package containing the new treaty?
After Randall Garrett’s unfortunate death in 1987, there appeared two new Lord Darcy novels, written by Michael Kurland. Both are excellent books; Kurland has managed quite well to pick up where Randall Garrett left off:
Ten Little Wizards (1988)
Someone is killing sorcerers one by one by one. Is it someone with the Talent and a fierce hatred of his own colleagues? Or is there a more serious threat … not only to magicians, but the Empire itself?
A Study In Sorcery (1989)
Lord Darcy and Master Sean must travel to the Aztecque Empire in the New World to investigate a ceremonial-style murder. Someone wanted the young prince dead, someone who may be threatening the fragile peace between the Empires.
Garrett, Randall. Lord Darcy
. New York
: Nelson Doubleday, 1981.
Kurland, Michael. Ten Little Wizards
. New York: Ace Books, 1988.
Kurland, Michael. A Study in Sorcery
. New York: Ace Books, 1989.