Second part of Jones's projected fantasy trilogy (The Stone and the Maiden, 1999) about the Ascendancy and its rulers. Mandine Dascaris and Key Mec Brander now rule in peace. But Mandine's vicious, mad half-sister Theatana escapes her island prison. Having discovered a wellspring of black magic, she acquires evil allies in preparation for a war to conquer the empire she regards as rightfully hers. Young Ilarion, who someday will inherit the Ascendancy, determines to stop his mad aunt; but the magical nature of the struggle threatens to release the Deep Magic from the Ban that has prevented its use for centuries. Nothing special: Fans only.