As the third book in the series opens an uneasy truce exists between Ikaria and the Seddon Federation. Uneasy rests the crown upon Emperor Lucius of Ikaria who has much to deal with inside and outside the empire. Things are also uneasy for Lady Ysobel of the Seddon Federation because none of her plans have worked as intended making things increasingly difficult. Sure, she was able to negotiate a fragile truce between the warring countries. But, her network of spies and informers were mostly killed thanks to the recently quashed rebellion so she barely survives by listening to gossip and paying attention to everything.


This includes the behavior of Emperor Lucius who seems to be increasingly unstable both in mind and body. While part of the old blood by birthright, he has followed the policies of more recent rulers which has caused some consternation among the old blood nobility. That has been made worse by his recent behavior in public and his disappearances from time to time.


Emperor Lucius works very hard to hide a dark secret that is slowly killing him. He is inhabited by two souls, who are also currently in an uneasy truce brought about by the need to survive in a body that is dying around them. It never should have happened, but it did and it was either treachery or a sincere desire to help that caused this problem. A problem growing worse by the hour and a final desperate attempt at a cure will have to be sought far away in Xandropol. Even if the cure is found, the empire may be stolen by another because plots and treasonous acts are occurring inside and outside the Ikarian court.


Told primarily through Lucius and Lady Yosbel, this 357 page fantasy novel is full of numerous rich characters and plenty of intrigue. What could have easily been boring or stale, instead quickly comes alive as author Patricia Bray creates a world where duplicity is a way of life and honesty a rare prized commodity.


Particularly effective are the scenes with Lucius and his attempts to deal with the two souls within him. One soul is his own with limited skills and certain expectations because of his noble birthright. The other trapped soul is of a monk named Josan, who was once a member of the Learned Brethren. A soul fluent in many languages and the only real hope Lucius has for survival because Josan is the only one who can research the cure.


Full of treachery, duplicity, and place intrigue this novel fitting ends the series and ties up many loose ends. Not only does it in entertain readers long familiar with the series, through skilled back story, the book embraces new readers by telling them what they need to know for this book. The result is a strong fantasy novel and a very good read.


This review previously appeared online at the book review site, Afterthoughts, owned and operated by Jade Walker who provided this book for my objective review. With the closing of the site last month by Jade Walker, all rights to the review returned to me.


Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

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