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Xavier Hollands is an eccentric technologist. That sounds so much better than “mad scientist”. Using his father's theoretical work he has found a way to create a hard astral projection. After testing this out with his girlfriend, Tilly, he is dragged into the Salt Wars by Wolf-Dietrich von Raitenau who wants to secure the future of Salzburg and his own future as its Prince-Archbishop.
They travel back in time to the town which will eventually become Salzburg. Xavier's astral projection is so strong that he comes into conflict with the “best man” of the town whom he defeats at the May Fair. He also develops a relationship with Krystyna, the daughter of his employer in the town and betrothed of the erstwhile best man.
Using Xavier's methods, Tilly intervenes to save Xavier and to thwart Wolf-Dietrich. Magus – a medieval Satanist – tries to use Krystyna to seduce Xavier and thus tie him to the town forever. When this plot fails because of Tilly's intervention there is a battle through time and space.
Wolf-Dietrich is hunted down like a literal wolf. Xavier meets his claustrophobic nightmare on a submarine which is then depth-charged and flooded with water. Tilly meets her fate in a school where she cannot control her class or stop them bullying a young boy called Gabriel. When Tilly realises that Gabriel is trying to push her towards suicide, he is unmasked as Magus.
The trio return to the town to fight the first salt war. Wolf-Dietrich brings about a successful conclusion by playing on the superstitious fears of the attackers.
The book also has diary entries from the characters which give an insight into their thinking.
The book ends with a teaser for the next Xavier Holland's story “The Archbishop's Torturer”..
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