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He loosely modeled the political and economic aspects of the world on the Roman Empire of about the 2nd century AD. The former Ethshar, which became embroiled in a generations-long war with the Northern Empire, broke up into more than two hundred statelets collectively called the Small Kingdoms before the end of the "Great War". The inhabitants do not have a special name for their world, simply calling it "the World" - and this world does not seem to be on a planet, but is rather the end-cap of a cylinder surrounded by what seems to be a noxious yellow gas.
A notable feature of Ethshar - in contrast to some other fantasy worlds - is that there are many distinct different varieties of magic, each with its own laws.
The Sword of Bheleu (Lords of Dus, book 3) by Lawrence Watt-Evans
Some, like the telekinesis exhibited by Ethshar's warlocks, seem to owe more influence to science fiction than fantasy. Some forms of magic, in particular wizardry, are powerful enough to create other universes.
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The first six Ethshar novels were published by Ballantine 's Del Rey imprint, all of them being accepted and nominally edited by Lester Del Rey. The 7th and 8th were published by Tor Books , but disappointing sales led Tor to ask Watt-Evans to concentrate on his non-Ethshar material, which generated much better sales.
The Lords of Dus, Book 3
After writing several non-Ethshar fantasy novels for Tor, Watt-Evans began experimentally serializing the 9th Ethshar novel, The Spriggan Mirror , on his website under a modified form of the Street Performer Protocol. That novel was published in trade paperback, along with the following novel, The Vondish Ambassador. In the Walasian Empire, sorcerers are the aristocracy. They are granted a lot of social power, prestige and wealth, and in return are expected to use their magical abilities for the common good.
The system had worked well enough for hundreds of years, and the people in general considered themselves better governed than neighbors with a more conventional aristocracy - but things are starting to change: the economy is in trouble, there is more and more discontent, in the cities people gather and listen to speeches, some of which might be seditious This is the world into which the protagonist, a young man Anrel Murau, has grown up.
His background is a bit unusual.
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In this society. While such ability is mostly hereditary, a child of commoners found to have a magical ability is taken into the aristocracy and might attain the highest positions, while a magically-deficient child of magical parents - which is unusual but does sometimes happen - is restricted to more humble positions.
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Anrel Murau is an example of the latter kind.