Second installment (after the admirable The Cutting Edge) of Duncan's projected four-book fantasy. The setting is Pandemia, land of sorcerers, gods, and several human varieties, now ruled by the mad dwarf-sorcerer Zinixo and his Covin of enslaved sorcerers. The Impire's rightful Imperor, Shandie, is a fugitive with only a handful of loyal companions, among them Raspnex the dwarf-sorcerer, King Rap of Krasnegar, and Ylo, who hopes to seduce Shandie's desirable wife. Now that the Protocol--an agreement by which the actions of the great and powerful were restrained--has been overthrown, a new and better compact uniting the few remaining free sorcerers must be prepared, its provisions to include the outlawing of slave-sorcery and the promotion of good magic over evil. So the various good guys are allotted places to go, people to see, and jobs to do--all while evading the clutches of the Covin. Meanwhile, the mysterious, magical pixies, hitherto aloof, are preparing to intervene; and Rap's wife, son, and daughter have been captured by rapist-torturer goblins. A mediocre continuation, free of major flaws but oxidized and discouragingly slapdash.