Final part of McAuley's extraordinary far-future trilogy about the artificial world of Confluence (Ancients of Days, 1999, etc.). Foundling Yama, last of the descendants of the Builders of Confluence, seeks to unravel the mystery of his own origin and the fate of the Preservers, who uplifted the ten thousand bloodlines of Confluence before vanishing inside a black hole. Along the way, he'll free the indigens, non-uplifted peoples exploited and enslaved by those touched by the Preservers, by reprogramming the nanomachines in his own blood. And he'll attempt to stop the war between the loyalists, who slavishly follow the ancient injunctions of the vanished Preservers, and the heretics, followers of a megalomaniac star-sailor's computer-avatar who, despite their cant, simply wish to rule Confluence. But Yama has been captured by his old enemy, the evil apothecary Dr. Dismas, and infected with a seed, the Shadow, an offspring of a powerful feral machine that has taken up residence in the Glass Desert, and that seeks to force Yama to do its bidding. No longer able to control machines, Yama's sole hope is his servant, Pandaras, who, guided by the glowing ceramic coin that he carries, doggedly seeks his master.
McAuley brings his brilliantly imaginative saga to a rewarding, compelling conclusion: overall, a landmark of far-future science fiction.