Second part of a fantasy duology, following Flesh and Spirit (2007, etc.).
Young Valen, a novice monk with magical skills of finding and unlocking, also has a personal problem. Owing to his ghastly upbringing, he’s addicted to doulon, a pernicious drug that requires pain for release. His protégé, the youthful scholar Jullian, whom Valen has sworn to protect, has been kidnapped by the evil renegade monk, Gildas. The latter’s in league with the fanatic Sila Diaglou, who has lethal theories of destruction-as-salvation, and whose armies of Harrowers are running riot. Worse, Valen’s liege lord, the sorcerer Prince Osriel—his secret identity is Gram, secretary to Thane Stearc—collects the eyes and souls of dead warriors. Sila Diaglou also threatens the elflike Danae; she poisons their secret places and imperils their homeland, a magical realm adjacent to human lands. Osriel agrees to help Valen pursue Gildas, but then gives him over to the Danae to be broken, whence Valen, not altogether surprisingly, discovers he’s actually a half-breed, anathema to the Danae. But then, when he reveals abilities the Danae themselves can’t match, Valen’s Danae uncle Kol agrees to teach him the skills of the Danae. But while Kol teaches Valen, Sila Diaglou grabs Osriel (in his Gram persona) along with Stearc and Jullian. With his new magic, Valen conceives a plan to rescue the three. But can Valen really trust Osriel, whom he suspects of building an army of enslaved undead?
Though the plot twists are sometimes obvious, the narrative crackles with intensity against a vivid backdrop of real depth and conviction, with characters to match. Altogether superior.