A sensible young woman runs afoul of fairy-tale figures in this high-fantasy sequel set in a typical, white, medieval-ish kingdom.
For four months, Errin Vastel has struggled to live in the rough-and-tumble town of Almwyk, dodging the attentions of an unctuous official, supplying the mysterious Silas with potions and poisons, and keeping her mother locked up and drugged. With her father dead and brother, Lief, missing, Errin longs for her former life as an apothecary’s apprentice in Tremayne but attempts to care for her mother, first mad with grief, now possibly morphing into a monster. Haunted by erotic, enigmatic dreams, Errin looks for companionship from Silas, but the always-hooded smuggler has his own agenda. Even fairy tales cannot comfort her, for the mythical Sleeping Prince—a man or god or alchemist whose origins are repeatedly but never definitively explained—has woken, killing King Merek, razing religious houses, and sending forth his army of golems and traitorous men. When Errin blackmails Silas into helping her escape, she instead falls deeper into a plot involving the Sleeping Prince, a religious fugitive, and a long-hidden colony of alchemists. In this second volume in the trilogy that began with The Sin Eater’s Daughter (2015), Salisbury delivers another complex protagonist, torn between science and magic and intent on survival but often overwhelmed with grief and guilt. Readers will be grateful for the map that helps them locate the many fantasy places that pepper the book.
A tale of monsters—mortal and mythical—that intersects with the previous installment but offers no happily-ever-after conclusion. (Fantasy. 14-18)