Third fantasy outing for narrator Green, now 16 years old, a warrior in the service of the Lily Goddess (Endurance, 2011, etc.).
To confront her bitter enemy, the scheming, vicious Surali, the priestess who has taken over the Lily temple by plotting with evil sorcerers and misogynistic cultists to achieve ends that are never very clear, Green must leave Copper Downs, where she has won over the local council and a suite of local gods, and return across the sea to Kalimpura, the decadent city-state where the Lily Goddess resides. Here, Surali is holding two hostages, children of Green’s allies. From Blackblood, the god of pain, Green acquires a pair of irresistible knives and from a more natural source, infant twins whom she must frequently breastfeed. After a hair-raising sea voyage during which Green invokes supernatural assistance to save the ship from an unnatural storm, she finds a place to hide while she sizes up the situation. To defeat Surali, it emerges, Green must seek help from the mysterious Red Man, a powerful but much-abused renegade from a cult of vicious misogynists, the Saffron Tower. What holds the interest here are Green’s constant distractions in caring for her twins, rather than the minimal and often uninteresting plotting, weak or obscure motivations and intermittent bursts of violence. At least the religious digressions are held to a minimum.
The barely credible narrative stands in strange contrast to the backdrop’s persuasively gritty details and Green’s far more absorbing personal dilemmas.