Here's the blurb:
Kay Kenyon's The Empire and the Rose was hailed as "a star-maker", "a magnificent book", "audacious", and "the most ambitious science fiction epic of the current decade", garnering starred reviews and comparisons to Larry Nivens and Stephen R. Donaldson.
In this epic new work, the award-winning Kenyon creates an alternate 19th century; two continents on an alternate earth: scientific Anglica (England) and magical Bharata (India.)
To claim the powers of the legendary golden lotus, Tori Harding, a Victorian woman, must journey to Bharata, with its magics, intrigues and ghosts, to claim her fate, and face a choice between two suitors and two irreconcilable realms.
It is 1857. After millennia of seafaring, and harried by the kraken of the deep, in a monumental feat of engineering Anglica has built a stupendous bridge to Bharata. Bharata's magical powers are despised as superstition, but its diamonds and cotton are eagerly exploited by Anglic colonials. Seething with unrest over its subjugation, Bharata strikes back with bloody acts of magical terrorism.
Despite these savage attacks, young Tori Harding yearns to know if Bharata's magics may also be a path to scientific discovery. Tori's parents hold little hope for her future because she has a club foot. Therefore they indulge her wish to have instruction in science from her famous botanist grandfather, even though, as a woman she will be denied a career in science by the male-dominated scientific societies. Though courted by a friend of the family, Captain Edmond Muir-Smith, Tori has taken to heart her grandfather's warning not to exchange science for "married slavery."
Emboldened by her grandfather's final whispered secret of a magical lotus, Tori crosses the great bridge with her father's regiment and Captain Muir-Smith. In Bharata she encounters her grandfather's old ally, the Rana of Kathore, his rival sons, and the ancient museum of Gangadhar, fallen to ruin and patrolled by ghosts.
In pursuit of the golden lotus, Tori finds herself in a magic-infused world of silver tigers, demon birds and the enduring gods of Bharata. As a great native mutiny sweeps up the Rana's household, her father's regiment and the entire continent of Bharata--Tori will find the thing she most desires, less perfect than she had hoped, and stranger than she could have dreamed.
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And here's an excerpt so you can see what the book is all about!
Elizabeth Platt is a teacher bound for the land of Bharata, crossing over a great oceanic bridge, along with her friend, the story's major character, Tori Harding.
The women's tent shuddered in the gusts. Jessa had been reading aloud to the other two women by the lamplight, but Elizabeth felt uneasy. With the wind whipping about, she had visions of the book wagon's tarp coming undone and the rain doing its worst. The original batons had been very secure, but with Mrs. Harding riding prostrate in the book wagon during the days, Elizabeth worried that the tarps might now be neglected.
"I'll be gone only a few minutes," she declared, rising from her seat and throwing on her rain cape.
"You must let Jackson escort you," Jessa said, thinking she meant to make use of the privy.
Elizabeth ducked into the storm, pulling her hood securely over her head, and peered into the rain. Jackson was in the servant tent, no doubt, but she had only a few paces to go to check on the book wagon. No one was anywhere visible, not even the soldiers, having all retreated to tents. They had lanterns within, which threw a pallid light on her path. The Bridge rose and fell like an animal striving to be free of bondage. On her way she staggered against the carriage and careened on, growing more and more concerned for her books as the wind whipped stray cords and sent litter scudding.
At the book wagon, the tarps were holding, but one end flapped a little loose. She wished she had packed the books in another layer of oil-cloth. She had not foreseen that to make room for Mrs. Harding to lie down during her nauseous bouts, they would have to restack the books to make room down the middle, bringing the book stacks higher than the sides of the wagon. She untied the cords at the corner, bending to the task of making a good square knot.
It was just then that she felt more than heard a disturbance a dozen yards from her, out in the water. The ocean rose up, turning a most curious shade of turquoise. By all that was holy, it was an animal, rising from the water. Might this be an octopus such as Tori had seen? But in her heart, Elizabeth knew what it was. Slowly, she lifted her chin to look up into the eyes of an enormous kraken.
It was black against black, impossible to clearly see, yet its presence was palpable. Her mind, stunned in fear, yet noted odd details: the scales glowing green, the slick fin on its back, a wide face looking down on her. Surely it must be a phantom produced by her imagination. For if it was a beast, how could it maintain its position in the thrashing ocean?
With a sickening thump, it threw a great paw on the bridge railing. She was going to die.
Well then, she vowed, the books must not be forfeit. She gave a stout pull on the knot, drawing the cover down to protect the lovely paper. But flesh was weaker, exposed. To die in the jaws of the kraken would be merciful compared with the fate of the cow which had been hauled into the air and then submerged in the endless depths. She pressed trembling against the wagon, realizing with dismay that if she had not secured the knot, she might have thrust aside the edge of the tarp and scrambled into the wagon. Drawing breath, she prepared to scream to draw the guards.
A flash of sheet lightning.
Her scream died. She saw the kraken most clearly. The creature had let go its hold on the rail of the bridge and sank down a few feet, bringing its vast face on a level with her own. Oh, it was not a phantom, it was all animal, all teeth and nostrils and eyes, eyes like lanterns lit by the storm, its whiskers cascading water. It regarded her, oh indeed it did, with the delight of a lord about to enjoy a favorite repast.
That was her first thought. Her second was that it had seen enough and would proceed on its way.
And it did. It fell away as though it had never been. She thought--though the lightning had passed--that she saw a coiling tail humping up and slithering down.
Elizabeth fell to her knees. A moaning sound came to her ears. She was making a most remarkable sound, a guttural cry of terror and relief that soon subsided into a whimper. That would not do. Elizabeth Platt did not whimper, not in the face of a classroom of unruly tenement children nor a kraken from the abyss.
After a few minutes she heard Jackson calling for her. She stood up, smoothing her dress, trying to think how she would explain her dreadful state, her sopping hair, her shaken visage.
"Miss Platt," Jackson said as he hurried forward.
Cracks of rifle fire came from down the Bridge.
A shout from nearby as a sergeant rushed half-dressed from the nearest tent, pulling up his trousers. Then on every side the tents erupted with soldiers bearing rifles and swords. Officers shouted their men into formations.
Underneath yells of the troops and the howl of wind, from the distance came wild bellows like foghorns gone mad.
Colonel Harding leapt onto a stack of crates to get a view over the rail, into the churn of the sea. Cries of "kraken" came from all sides, but he could see none in the dark; he heard them, though, trumpeting at a distance.
Down the line, an explosion lit the Bridge, a magazine having caught fire. A tent burned, crackling and hissing. By this light he saw a dozen soldiers keeping formation, firing in sequence into the blackness, pray God finding a target. Heavy rifle fire came from forward on the line. There must be several of the monsters, all probing for weakness.
"How many?" Colonel Harding demanded as his adjutant rushed up to him.
"Five or fifty, sir, I do not know! They no more than rise up, than they're gone again!"
Harding felt the Bridge shudder. Good God, were the creatures attacking the Bridge deck itself? That was a greater peril than any other. "Shoot through the deck holes!" he shouted at soldiers who now swarmed around him. He jumped down, determined to get off a shot at the next passage of a kraken.
The deck rose up like a peaked roof. From under the grating came a grinding rattle that shook the pontoon, skewing it nearly out of line with the next segment. Soldiers fell, muskets clattering aside just as a foaming wave rushed over the lowest point, sweeping up his adjutant and carrying him away. Harding heard his scream as the surge threw his body against the rail and unto the very back of the kraken that now emerged from its passage under the Bridge.
The creature's long neck and head swiveled. Its jaws clasped down on the major's head and shoulders, snapping his bones.
"God damn it, shoot!" Colonel Harding cried at the stupefied men. He rushed to the railing which had now settled into mere humping chaos, and fired into the monster's neck, but his adjutant was gone. The kraken plunged down.
All along the bridge, ragged volleys spewed out but likely with little effect, as their kraken targets were one with the turbulent ocean, their movements cloaked in storm and waves.
Harding gathered the men near him and raced with them toward the civilian camp, but even as they drew near, they heard high-pitched screams.
Rifle fire was thick outside Tori and Jessa's tent, and the air filled with acrid smoke. Elizabeth was out there somewhere, alone. Tori rushed to the tent flap. "Stay here!"
Jessa threw herself forward, grabbing Tori's arm. "No! You can't go out!"
"Stay here!" Tori wrenched away and shoved out the tent flap into the storm. Wind-blown waves scudded over the rails, and men knelt by the carriages, shooting into the black, boiling sea. Fire engulfed a tent, barely slapped down by the salt water that seemed to come from every direction.
"Elizabeth!" she shouted. It was fruitless to call, so great was the roar of sea and fire and rifles. But there, just beyond the tent, she glimpsed her, bonnet gone, hair whipping around her, helped along by Jackson, as they labored to make progress up the Bridge. Tori was soaked through, her clothes weighing her down like an anchor, but she lurched forward to help. Then came a sound like the very mouth of the sea, a roar from a throat that must be many yards long, half-howl, half-screech. It brought Tori to her knees, as though a blow had struck her. The howl went on and on, filling her mind with its nightmare strength. How was it possible for an animal to produce such a sound?
Around her, soldiers were firing up at an apparition, but it was like shooting peas at a maddened bear. Hunkered down, face pressed into the heaving deck, she could not bear to look up at the thing.
And then she did. A great head and body towered over the bridge. Oh, it was all scales and cascading water, and whiskers jutting like lances. Somehow the kraken rose very high in the sea, balanced over the scurrying life forms under it. It paused horribly, looking down on the burning tent. God in heaven, it was going to devour the tent, and Elizabeth was right in the path. Tori sprang up, staggering, wildly lurching, and ran. She did not know why, nor what she could do, but she screamed for Elizabeth to back away, to dive clear of the descending jaws.
But it was too late.
Down they came. Serrated teeth tore at the flaming tent and hoisted it into the air and thence into the sea. Tori rushed through the cascading, flaming remnants, aware that she would die, stunned by the prospect of death at sea, death at all.