Final entry—maybe—in Flynn’s far-future space opera (In the Lion’s Mouth, 2012, etc.), featuring a power struggle between and among the agents (Shadows, Hounds) of two rather decadent empires (the Confederation, the League) and their rulers, the Names.
Just don’t expect to grasp which is which, or who is who, or whether either distinction matters. On Earth, master manipulator Gidula, as part of his intricate plan to assault the Secret City of the Names, has captured Donovan buigh, a scarred former Shadow of the Confederation. Among Donovan’s nine distinct personalities, Gidula believes, hide the memories of a powerful warrior—and knowledge of a secret way into the City. Nobody knows whether Gidula is helping or subverting a rebellion or what his real intentions are. Powerful Shadow Ravn Olafsdottr, meanwhile, has kidnapped Méarana the harper, or so she thinks; actually Méarana induced Ravn to kidnap her so she could rescue Donovan, her father, and force her mother, Bridget ban, to bring her Hounds in pursuit. Both Shadows and Hounds fight on either side at need and sometimes on both at once; they may or may not be loyal to the Names. Even the so-called rebellion might be a civil war among the Names themselves, with the rebellion cooked up to disguise the fact. The early sections are all languid, abstruse chat, often set forth in absurd and annoying accents, with the dazzling and equally baffling action reserved for much later; and like previous entries in this astonishing and irritating series, it's never clear what's really going on at any level.
Often deeply impressive but elusive and self-indulgent. Odd that the majorly talented Flynn cannot grasp that when readers never understand what’s going on, sooner or later they stop caring.