Beginning of a new historical-fantasy trilogy, set in the same Mongol Khanate–style universe as the short novel Bone and Jewel Creatures (2010).
Along the Celadon Highway, the empire of the Great Khagan is embroiled in civil war. A grandson, Temur, supported his defeated elder brother in terrible battles against his usurping uncle Qori Buqa. In the country of the Eternal Sky, a moon sails in the heavens for each of Mongke Khagan's sons and grandsons. Once there were over a hundred, now less than a third remain, Temur's Iron Moon among them. Though badly wounded, Temur survives, attaches himself to one of the wandering clans of the steppes and takes Edene as his woman. Meanwhile Qori Buqa allies himself with al-Sepehr, an ambitious renegade blood-sorcerer cultist of the Uthman Caliphate. Al-Sepehr raises an army of ghosts to kill Temur, but fails; instead the sorcerer snatches Edene and brings her to his stronghold of Al-Din. Meanwhile, Samarkar, a wizard of Tsarepheth in the Rasan Empire, where another, less bloody, power struggle is going on, learns of sorcerous doings in the city Qeshqer and travels to investigate. Here she meets Temur, who's searching for Edene. They will be joined by Hrahima, a huge human-tiger Cho-tse, who has traveled from Ctesifon with more bad news. The Khagan Empire is Temur's to claim—if he can survive the plots of Qori Buqa. This lean, sinewy, visceral narrative, set forth in extraordinarily vivid prose full of telling detail, conveys a remarkable sense of time and place, where the characters belong to the landscape and whose personalities derive naturally from it. Though the book is not self-contained, Bear provides this opener with enough of a resolution to satisfy while whetting the appetite for more.
Gripping, perfectly balanced and highly recommended.