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I am trying to find a novel I read as a teenager around 2008. There were two books if I recall correctly. I think I read it in French but it was probably a translation. The untranslated version might have been in German or English.

Settings

There were two major settings I remember :

  1. The "exotic" setting

Another world, where people live on flying islands. There is no ground. The bottom is a chasm. There is a goddess called Freya with a lot of importance.

There are two people that inhabit it. Some people (which I will call "magicians" for lack of a better word) of the first people have the magical ability to control or inspect organic matter (fabric, human bodies, etc). The magicians of the second people have the ability to control inorganic matter (stuff like rocks or iron). In order to use some of their abilities the magicians have to go into a mindstate called "seidr" IIRC.

The organic people have some kind of a domination relationship toward the inorganic people. They are capable of extracting someone's brain to put it in a jar and keep it alive. They can keep their flying islands in the sky because they are made of chitin.

There is a third "people". It is the guild of transporters. They are the offspring of a mixed couple. They can teleport stuff if I am right. They are locked in rooms and can only use paintings to be able to know where to go.

  1. The "real" world

It is a world similar to ours, except for the fact that magicians exist in this world but are hiding.

Plot

There is a prophecy that a "perfect" will be born someday. A perfect is a magician who has the ability to rule over organic AND inorganic matter. There's just one problem, instead of one perfect, we have twins (a girl and a boy). So one child is taken care of by an organic magician and the other by an inorganic.

Both magicians are in love. One day, one of them dies but is able to keep her (or his, I don't remember which one) spirit in shape and go find the other who follows them in death.

The children then try to find each other, and they succeed. Then several plot twists happen:

  1. They are not the first perfect. A perfect is a normal albeit rare event. For instance I think that the leader of the transporter guild is a perfect.
  2. The goddess Freya is alive. She was in fact a perfect who was turned into a brain-in-a-jar. She asks the twin perfects to kill her.
  3. To really become a perfect the twins have to merge their minds. Sadly, the brother then discovers that the sister is in love with him (they only met a few days/months ago).
  4. The "exotic" world is IN the real world. It is just a small location inside the roof or something like that of a church. Some time ago Freya was forced into using her powers to move swarms of people into this space, and shrink them. In this place time passes by more slowly.

There is also a subplot about a transporter magician IIRC.

Miscellaneous

  1. There are 4 levels of magic. The two magicians tasked to take care of the twins were level 4 (the lowest).
  2. Inorganic magicians can have a belt made of rock or something like this in order to fly.
  3. There is a bad guy who was a good guy but was tortured and is now a bad guy.
  4. There are a lot of references to Nordic/Germanic/Scandinavian mythologies. I think in the real world one characters talks about "Tolkien" and stuff like that.
  5. In the real world there is a discussion about a sleeping bag. If I recall correctly it was about whether it was synthetic or not in order to know which type of magician could control it.
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  • how can you have a chasm without a ground to compare it to? am I living in a chasm right now since the ground is not 200 metres higher?
    – user253751
    Oct 28 at 11:35
  • @user253751 Thanks to the magic of not being a native speaker and being real rusty I guess :) It is saddly really crying if you look at my shameful unedited question. If you prefer you have an endless hole below the flying islands. I don't know which words convey this meaning in English. I have wavered between chasm and abyss. The latter is maybe more suited. Oct 28 at 12:00
  • the meaning is the same, and the question remains: how can you have a hole, if it is not a hole in something? How can you have a hole in the ground if there is no ground? Am I living in a hole in the ground above me, even though there is no ground above me? It doesn't matter, anyway.
    – user253751
    Oct 28 at 12:07
  • @user253751 Imagine being in a cylinder. Now imagine it being infinite toward the bottom. Infinite wall, no bottom. This is the world described in the novel. If I remember it correctly that is :) But now that Jenayah has found it I'll be able to check one day hopefully. I hope that what I meant is clearer now :) Oct 28 at 12:15
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L'Empire de Poussière (2002) by Nicolas Bouchard.

From Babelio, most of the translation courtesy of DeepL:

No one knows the exact dimensions of the Empire of Dust. The most that can be said is that the great abyss goes down thousands of leagues to the Niflheimr, the underworld. No navigator, not even the most daring, has attempted the journey down there. One day, Freyja, the great goddess, disappears. And the cities of the Empire begin a slow descent into Niflheimr. A prophecy once foretold the birth of an expert in magic, a Perfect One who could stop the fall of the dust. But it is twins who are born...


Found with the Google query roman fantastique iles flottantes magie site:babelio.com -cattacin (fantasy novel floating islands magic site:babelio.com -cattacin). "Cattacin" is excluded from the search with the minus operator to filter out the unrelated book Iles Flottantes (Floating Islands) by Jean-Luc Cattacin.

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