Third in the series (Shadow's Lure, 2011, etc.) in which knife-wielding, magic-powered assassin Caim Du'Vartha tries to figure out what's going on.
Caim's magic derives from his control over mysterious shadow-entities that crawl all over everything; sometimes they heal him, sometimes they kill people (or wait for Caim to do the job) and drink their blood. He sets off to the north, along with some warrior friends, following a psychic lure that he hopes will bring him to the secret behind his mother's disappearance and his power over the shadows. He leaves Josey, his lover, now Empress of the Nimean Empire and pregnant, to consolidate her power—but instead she faces a new invasion from the north by barbarian warriors who vastly outnumber her own forces. Caim is also accompanied, or haunted, by a disembodied sprit, Kit, who turns out to be an immortal Fae and more often an annoyance than a help; how she manages to float around like a ghost remains unexplained. Another character, Balaam, also a magic-powered assassin but in service to the Dark Lord whom Caim is destined to confront, is beginning to have doubts. Sprunk writes effective action prose and makes worthy efforts to develop his characters, but Josey's political backdrop is naïve. The evil shadows have some strikingly original touches, yet their motivations could have been wielded much more effectively; instead we end up with a rather trudging showdown, as if Aragorn learned that Sauron was his grandfather and stopped to chat before battling it out. The good news is that Sprunk continues to improve.
Series fans will dive right in; curious newcomers should begin at the beginning and avoid at least some of the confusion.