There are wizards about in the world -- mighty wizards with amazing powers. You wouldn't notice them, though. The mystical talismans that supply their power, the Star and the Crystal, both insist on absolute secrecy, and won't let them do blatant public magic. Still, in private, or off in the astral plane, they're quite impressive. They're also rivals and almost enemies: the Star being sorta-kinda Good or at least Lawful, the Crystal sorta-kinda Evil or Chaotic. They've got a truce, though.
Correl and Karla were lovers and lived together for a while, but they fought all the time. After they broke up, Correl was recruited by the Star Mages, and Karla by the Crystal.
Then Karla stumbled on something peculiar in the astral plane: an immense stairway, marked with a symbol that points it towards worlds where humans never evolved. Strange enough so that she called up Correl and asked him to help investigate it ... and they uncovered a plot that upsets the balance of power of the mages of Earth.
This is mostly a love story of sorts, though, with a twist. Sure, there's a massive mage-war there, and a plot that could ruin Earth, and other fun stuff, but it's mostly a love story, and quite a sweet one at that.
The Big Flaw: It's kind of repetitive and talky. Correl and Karla spend a lot of time hasing over relationship matters, with each other and with various advisors. Which is all fine and reasonable, but the relationship changes only slowly, and the book winds up treading over approximately the same ground repeatedly.
I was quite amused by the tie-ins with real-world magical traditions
The magic, at its best, was spiffy and flavorful. I particularly liked the bit where Karla went into the Akashic Library, where all knowledge past and future is stored, and ... checked out a book about the war she was about to engage in. She got some really useful information from it about things that had already happened --- but the future sections, which might occur several ways, are unreadable.
The magical systems and structures gave me good flashbacks to Zelazny's Amber.
The writing is decent but not exceptional. All the characters sound very modern, which is fine for the ones who are, but a bit off for the ones who are centuries old. The main characters are decent but not exceptional too. The minor characters are pretty much indistinguishable.
My rating is 3 magic talismans out of five. (I'd rate it "3 stars", but in a book with a Star, a Crystal, and a Surprise, I better not use that system.) Good mind candy or airplane reading or what have you, and worth your time.
(review of free book)