Twins try to help the empire strike back when a dark force takes hold.
Reeling from the massacre in their hometown and hopelessly entangled in imperial politics (Empire of Night, 2015, etc.), Moria and Ashyn attempt to reunite, find the kidnapped children, and rescue the empire. As a Keeper and a Seeker respectively, the teens can hear and soothe unquiet spirits—and are doomed to live without husbands or, likely, children—but they must adapt their powers to deal with legendary beasts unleashed by disgraced ex-military leader and sorcerer Alvar Kitsune. Political subplots, monster attacks, and tedious reconfigurations of traveling companions (un)necessarily prolong the plot until the final battle. Familial, caste, and romantic relationships also complicate matters, separating Ashyn and Moria and partnering them with exiled criminal Ronan, dishonored Gavril Kitsune, bastard prince Tyrus, and bondbeasts Daigo and Tova, often while in captivity. As the twins share narrative duties—Moria’s stiff formality and sexual frankness setting her apart from her relatively sedate sister—readers receive both perspectives as well as clunky exposition from other characters concerning the feudal fantasy-Japanese world’s magic, religion, and racial tensions. Armstrong indulges in gorier and steamier scenes than in previous installments but never fully succeeds in making the twins into players instead of pawns.
A plot-poor but melodrama-rich series closer. (Fantasy. 14-18)