Immortal John Mazentius has seen enough of this world and wants nothing more than to pass on from this life. Caught in a feud between an otherworldly queen who causes havoc by granting but altering wishes and the sorcerer who seeks to maintain balance in the universe, John has no way out but to find a famulus, someone to train in his ways and to whom he can eventually pass off his immortality through a ritual. His latest mission introduces him to socially awkward Aberdeen Scotland, who’s desperate for belonging and acceptance, even though that means falling into a way of life she doesn’t understand.
In Volume 1, John Mazentius returns (against his will) to the town he left twelve years earlier when Paul Madley, the man he had been training as his famulus, went mad with the power of immortality and magic. Paul and his wife, Tova, performed a dangerous ritual that resulted in Tova’s spirit being captured and imprisoned in Kolunia’s realm. Glimmers, spirits who search for especially desperate people about to fall prey to Kolunia’s wish-granting magic, sense that Madley is on the verge of trying something just as reckless, and he’s grown in power so that his cloaking spells prevent them from discovering his plans.
John also left behind his own wife, Romilly, who had started to do dangerous experiments with magic in attempts to deceive Kolunia’s demons for her own gain. Rather than allow Romilly to fall victim the same way Tova had, John bound her soul to a tree. He promised to return to restore her once he could cleanse her of the magic that had taken hold, but after over a decade, he’s come to think of her as lost to the world. John would rather crawl back into bed and sleep the day away than return to that town, but Tarchon, Grand Lord of Order who oversees agents like John, can punish his disobedience by messing with his perceptions. Over centuries of misbehavior, John has lost the ability to taste ice cream, hear certain music notes, or remember the names of people he once loved, among other penalties.
The particular case that sends John back into town is to deal with Aberdeen Scotland, an amateur linguist, unpublished writer, and Halloween enthusiast who works in a bookstore and is hopelessly in love with one of her friends, Gryphon Holmes. Bad timing and her own awkwardness has prevented Aberdeen from being able to tell Gryphon how she feels. When yet another arrangement to get together falls through, it’s enough to push her desperation to a critical point. She tosses a coin into a fountain and makes a wish to be able to understand people so she can make some sense of her loneliness. One of Kolunia’s demons emerges from the fountain and bestows on her the ability to understand people–by receiving a vision of the past whenever she touches a person or object.
After John’s last attempt to find a famulus failed, Tarchon decided that John could pass his power only onto someone who willingly accepted the supernatural ability given by Kolunia. The catch is that most people who would accept the power would let it control their lives. John needs to make sure Aberdeen knows what she’s getting into without completely turning her off of the idea. If Aberdeen were to accept John’s immortality and his role as agent of Tarchon, she would only be able to pass it onto someone else after she’d held it for at least as long as John had, over nine hundred years.
Complicating matters are Aberdeen’s brothers, Edinburgh and Yard. Yard doesn’t trust John from the moment he meets him. He thinks John is out to take advantage of his gullible sister. He’s right, but not in the way he thinks. Ed doesn’t care about much of anything, as his heart was hardened years ago by the accidental death of his high school girlfriend. He works through his own pain by building up the hopes of untalented musicians and artists, setting them up for failure just so someone else will know what it feels like to have their future ripped away from them.
Aberdeen has only a few days to make a decision to keep or reject her new power, and whichever decision she makes, she needs to have a strong enough spirit to withstand any more of Kolunia’s temptations.