Molly, Alaric and Tobias return to share a final adventure that will intrigue, sadden and ultimately satisfy admirers of their earlier escapades (The Cup and the Crown, 2012, etc.).
Having gained his throne (though it’s still a bit precarious) and possession of a magical loving cup, Alaric has decided to strengthen his position by courting his brother’s widow to create an alliance between the countries of Westria and Cortova. He’s unhappy, to say the least, when he discovers that his uncle (and rival for the crown) seeks to marry his son to the princess. The return of this former adversary as well as the introduction of two clever and unpredictable characters whose intentions and alliances are unclear keeps the suspense high despite the length of the text and the fact that much of the action is relatively subdued. Flowing naturally from prior events, Stanley’s complex plot allows her main characters to display their hard-won wisdom and maturity. Magical elements aren’t woven in quite as seamlessly as before and are likely to seem as confusing to readers as they do to Molly. By contrast, using the game of chess as a framework succeeds splendidly, echoing the complex political maneuvering that is at the heart of the tale.
Like the earlier volumes, this is an excellent blend of familiar fantasy tropes and original ideas and elements that will please readers while giving them plenty to ponder. (Fantasy. 10-14)