Third in Vance's incomparable fantasy trilogy (Lyonesse, The Green Pearl) set in the Elder Isles, a mythical land of evil magicians, irresponsible fairies, sad halflings, hungry orgres, ambitious kings, and demons intruding from other realities. Princess Madouc, bitterly resisting the efforts of King Casmir of Lyonesse to turn her into pliant marriage-bait, discovers that her mother was not Casmir's daughter, Suldrun, but the impulsive fairy Twisk, though even Twisk cannot say who Madouc's father was. So, accompanied by a stablehand she dubs Sir Pom-pom (he hopes to discover the Holy Grail, as Casmir has promised the finder a great boon), Madouc goes off in search of her heritage. Elsewhere, the vengeful witch Desmei plots the downfall of the supreme wizard Murgen and his scion Shimrod, while good King Aillas restrains Casmir's mad ambitions of conquest. Then Casmir learns of a prophecy concerning Aillas' son Dhrun, to the effect that Dhrun shall be king of all the Isles; so Casmir schemes to have Dhrun murdered. Madouc, meantime, engages Throop the three-headed ogre in a deadly game of wits; Desmei attacks Murgen, causing part of the Isles to vanish beneath the sea, until Shimrod arrives to turn back Desmei's demonmagic; and finally Casmir, patience evaporated after Shimrod and Aillas frustrate his efforts to kill Dhrun, marches to war against Aillas. Dazzlingly imaginative, fascinatingly intricate, delicately controlled, engagingly peopled, and set forth in the inimitable Vance prose style: romantic fantasy at its brilliant best.