Book One of yet another fantasy trilogy, itself a sequel to a trilogy, The Elenium (concluded with The Sapphire Rose, not seen), which chronicled the Pandion knight Sparhawk's defeat of the evil god Azash. Now, six years later, with a few troubling exceptions--an upsurge in banditry and spying, the reappearance of old foes just as the trolls mysteriously vanish, the rumored manifestation of long-dead heroes, hints that the Troll-Gods are no longer safely confined--all is quiet in Elenia until the arrival from the huge Tamul Empire of ambassador Oscagne, bearing reports remarkably similar to those from Elenia. Since the Empire is benevolent, the unrest caused by such weird occurrences threatens to tear it apart, and the Emperor needs Sparhawk's help. So, disguising the occasion as a state visit, Queen Ehlana, Sparhawk, some trusty thieves, Mirtai the warrior-giantess, and the goddess Aphrael set off for Tamul--where, eventually, they will defuse a plot against the Emperor, learn very little about their real enemy, and conclude that the powerful jewel Bhelliom must be retrieved from the vasty deep whence Aphrael has consigned it. Uneventful, despite nearly 500 pages of effort: one or two battles, a severe overdose of travelogue, an abundance of witty conversation heavily disguised as dreadfully arch and affected chat. When Eddings casts aside pretension and artifice, he can write highly effectively (The Losers, p. 482), but another three volumes of this will tax even the moat loyal of fans.