Fantasy novel/series (maybe part of a trilogy), I think by a female author.

Magic has a high cost. Bad guys capture a princess (?) and in bearing the cost of their magic is transformed into a horrible monster. The Chosen One (baby Jesus-like) is born but said monstrous princess shoves claws into the baby's heart and kills it. The Chosen One's healing magic heals all but her two claws. That is the most striking image I remember. There were balloon-like flying machines, at one point used by bad guys to rain death upon their enemies trapped in an arena. The heroine at some point has to bargain with someone for a ride on a flying machine.

That's about all I remember, other than being sad the story ended and thinking it was one of the best I had read. I have thought for twenty years that it would come back or I would stumble upon it.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Just to be clear, you're saying you read this twenty years ago? So early 2000s?
    – DavidW
    Mar 15, 2023 at 19:22
  • Thank you David. I do believe I read it in the early 2000's and think it was relatively new at the time.
    – Bruce
    Mar 15, 2023 at 20:07

1 Answer 1


This is Holly Lisle's The Secret Texts trilogy, First published January 1, 1998.


If I recall correctly the princess is simply a member of one of the warring families, she is used as a sacrifice to capture the magical backlash or price you've remembered and monstrously transformed.

There are three forms of magic revealed through the series;

Falcons are a secret sect that use magic based on personal sacrifice, it produces no monstrous backlash. They are a secretive sect working towards peace and enlightenment.

Wolves use unwilling singletons or group sacrifices. Many of the practitioners are deformed, including one of the secondary characters who starts out with one monstrous leg, essentially a equine leg and later catches more backlash that gives him a second unexpectedly improving his situation as his knees now both bend the same way. Wolves spread the backlash among themselves or captives present at the ritual. They are known, but not publicly acknowledged within all powerful families.

Dragons use unwilling sacrifice from whole populations. They use their cities inhabitants as the fuel for their much more powerful magic. They are the rulers from before the fall of the previous civilization.

There are two major characters the series follows in addition to the mother of the saviour (a reincarnation of an ancient hero) are a male and female from each house. They are essentially werewolves, called Karnee in universe, with the additional ability to absorb magic backlash more safely than normal humans.

  • Thank you so much! I have already ordered the series and can't wait to revisit! Really appreciate this.
    – Bruce
    Mar 17, 2023 at 15:35

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