The second installment in Berg's quasi-Renaissance fantasy trilogy, following the well-received The Spirit Lens (2010), with many of the characters carrying over from the previous volume.
In Berg's world, four years have passed. Practical, well-educated narrator Anne de Vernase, devastated to learn that her beloved sister Lianelle died in a magical accident, receives an unexpected summons to the court of Philippe, King of Sabria—unexpected since her vanished father purportedly masterminded a ghastly plot to assassinate the king in the prior adventure. Anne, skeptical that magic even exists, refuses to believe that her sister died accidentally. Her escort to the palace is the curiously solicitous royal librarian Portier de Savin-Duplais, her father's chief accuser, and she realizes that she cannot afford to trust anyone. Soon it becomes clear that the former regent, the viperous Lady Antonia, intends to marry her off. Queen Eugenie lies ill, enchanted or poisoned by Antonia, her only protectors seeming to be her brother, the clownish chevalier Ilario, dangerously volatile sorcerer Dante and stammering physician Roussel. Among the oddments left her by Lianelle, Anne finds a powder that turns her invisible and also casts her mind into the ether, full of raging souls—and one single, truthful voice who's astonished to learn that he's not the only one that can communicate thus. Methodically, Anne uncovers plots that go far beyond Antonia's murderous schemes, threatening not only the kingdom but reality itself. The fully realized characters and strongly visual, tactile prose help to offset the sheer length, weight and intensity of the narrative.
A compelling and altogether admirable work.