Character development trumps story advancement in this second entry of a fantasy tetralogy.
Surly Relicmaster Galen and his naive apprentice Raffi have escaped from the Watch with the message that the "Makers" (ancient space settlers, worshipped by the Order as gods) have promised to return. Rumors of an heir to the murdered Emperor lead the pair, along with their alien Sekoi companion, to follow mystical clues through the dreary Unfinished Lands, with old friends and foes alike in pursuit. This quest merely forms the plot framework; the heart of the tale lies in the struggles of Carys Arrin, the clever, cynical, maybe-friendly Watchspy. Along with Galen and Raffi's searches, her explorations of the ancient palace co-opted by the Watch allow Fisher to indulge her flair for fantastical worldbuilding, hinting at a rich imaginary history and the dark secrets behind its corruption. Meanwhile, Carys' inner conflicts between curiosity, duty and loyalty provide a parallel journey into the price of personal integrity. These separate plot threads intertwine in a satisfying climax, posing puzzles to keep readers ensnared while providing pleasing narrative momentum to the overall series.
A sturdy, above-average adventure tale with flashes of brilliance. (Fantasy. 11-16)