Passed over for the Contest, then given no chance, Luke won it by preparation and guile, and when his common-born father was chosen Prince of Winchester in a stalemate between the two leading houses, the very Spirits proclaimed that Luke, not his older half-brother Peter, would in time be Prince of Princes -- was it all, all contrived? So say the Seers, ostensible spokesmen of the Spirits, actually guardians of electricity and all the knowledge anathematized since the Disaster. and the disclosure subverts the whole dynamic of rivalry and intrigue and violent clashes. There is a fine, odd relationship -- the bond between Luke and his father and Aunt Mary, his father's divorced first wife -- scuttled too when, resenting her Peter's displacement, she has the castle set on fire and, caught, must be killed. And there is less menace, and less meaning, in this future England medievalized than in Peter Dickinson's not dissimilar projection. Withal the story crackles with personal and political tension until, Luke's father killed seeking unprecedented power and Peter, in a remarkable recovery, accepted in his place, Luke is spirited away to remain the Prince in Waiting awaiting, that is, the propitious moment to unite the cities and thereby accomplish the Seers' aim of restoring civilization. It is the start of a trilogy, a good start in the sense of implying more than it resolves' but in and of itself, a combination-of excitement and extenuation.