More thaumaturgical turmoil in the kingdom of Karededin, in a sequel to Daughter of Exile (2004).
Shapeshifting witch Angarred—she can become a leopard—married Master Magician Mathewar. After Queen Rodarren died, 14-year-old King Jerret rapidly fell under the influence of the Haru clan: ambitious patriarch Noldeth; sexy Iltarra, who beguiles Jerret; warrior Drustig, banished for rebelling; crippled Polgar; and weak-minded Cullen. Jerret declares an heir in front of witnesses, who immediately begin to die: by accident, poison, murder at the hands of Bound Folk—these last obedient, mindless hulks created by Polgar using a magic half-crown. Noldeth persuades Jerret to use Bound Folk to invade neighboring Goss and occupy the rich mines there; Drustig, meanwhile, with his own army and another magic half-crown that induces panic and madness, also attacks Goss. Mathewar learns how to break a weak binding, but in the process loses his magic. Just when things are at their worst, Angarred and Mathewar decide to go home, but Drustig’s pirates attack their ship. Drustig, leering and triumphant, nearly tears Mathewar’s mind apart in his search for information—but, little by little, Mathewar regains his magic. As Noldeth dies, Polgar agrees to kill Jerret, and Cullen seizes the crown. Other complications: Caireddin, illegitimate daughter of old King Tezue, marriage to whom for Cullen or Drustig would legitimize their ambitions; Prince Brangwin of Goss, driven mad by Drustig, wanders in the forest; and Drustig himself, weary of terrorizing Goss, decides to invade Karededin.
Churning, multi-threaded, engagingly populated fan-pleaser, with no aspirations to be anything more.