Under the protection of the Half-Divine Jentessa, mortals Paragrin and Cam--met earlier in The Oval Amulet (1985)--are now happily ""Joined"" mates who together rule the small colony of Melde. While Paragrin is off exploring the less-enlightened colony of Vasser, its ruler--Jentessa's evil sister, Magramid--comes to Melde to pursue her vendetta with Jentessa. The story's lively action--in scenes that alternate between Paragrin's experiences in the dark and repressive Vasser and Cam's saintly attempts to keep peace in Melde in spite of Magramid's machinations (of which he is unaware until she tries to rape him)--dramatizes the age-old debates about pacific versus violent responses to aggression and the nature of a god who allows evil. But there are no simplistic resolutions here: Cam finally takes revenge on a murderer by killing him, suffers remorse, but is consoled by the notion that at least he didn't believe his act was just. Meanwhile, the sisters have a devastating conflict: Magramid is exiled by their father (the divine Maker), and Jentessa is left in charge--with the mortals somewhat more reconciled to her policy of nonintervention in their affairs. Though these ideas are more interesting than the characters, and readers will find the earlier book almost a prerequisite, this entertaining, well-told sequel does hold attention.