Sequel to The Traitor's Daughter (2011), Brandon's well-plotted, intriguingly peopled fantasy whose setting, along with magicians called "arcanists," resembles the medieval Italian city-state era.
Since the conquest of Faerlorn by neighboring Taerlezzi 20 years previously, Aureste Belandor collaborated with the occupiers in order to preserve his wealth and influence while maintaining restrained hostilities with his hated rival, Vinz Corvestri, an arcanist. Innesq, Aureste's crippled younger brother, a powerful arcanist, is convinced that he and the realm's mightiest arcanists must band together to meet the existential threat posed by the Other, an unimaginably powerful and incomprehensible intelligence that once inhabited the world and now apparently intends to make a comeback. Meanwhile, plague ravages the streets; worse, its victims don't stay dead but become zombies apparently under the control of the Other, and the amphibian Sishmindri, once biddable slaves of the great houses, have revolted against their masters. Jianna, Aureste's daughter, kidnapped by Faerlornish rebels in the previous book, has fallen for physician and rebel sympathizer Falaste Rione. Falaste's headstrong sister, Celisse, has sworn to assassinate the brutal Taerlezzi governor. Other complications include Grix Orlazzu, another potent arcanist, who wants nothing to do with Innesq's gathering; Grix's clockwork automaton, who considers himself superior to his creator; and Onartino Belandor, briefly Jianna's husband, whom she thought—hoped—to be dead. Set forth in a dispassionate, gently sardonic style, the unpredictable narrative proves quirkily engaging—right up to the point where it cuts off abruptly, with no attempt to resolve anything at all. Cynical indeed.
Enjoyable, mostly, though even the most avid and forgiving fans will find it difficult not to be annoyed.