Second in the author’s Russian-themed fantasy trilogy (Lord of Snow and Shadows, 2003).
Possessed by the dragon-demon Drakhaoul, Gavril, hereditary ruler of Azhkendar, has repelled the invading forces of Prince Eugene of Tielen, saving his country. But at the same time, he has managed to cast off the dragon, whose thirst for human blood was the price of Gavril's power. Now, unable to resist a new attack by Eugene, he is taken prisoner and removed to a distant prison for the criminally insane: the Iron Tower. Meanwhile, Eugene’s bride, Princess Astasia of the deposed Orlov dynasty, finds herself unable to love her royal husband—a man driven by the dream of reuniting the entire Rossiyan people under his power. To that end he has brought together the five pieces of a giant ruby taken from the eye of a sculptured dragon that guards the gate through which the Drakhaoul entered their world. Left behind after Gavril’s capture are the spirit-singer Kiukiu, whose songs allow her to communicate with the dead; Gavril’s mother Elysia, a brilliant painter; and his faithful retainers, now enslaved by the Tielen. Eugene also has to face rebellion in the southern province of Smarna, Gavril’s original home, aided by the perfidious foreign power of Francia. And unknown to him, his court necromancer, Kaspar Linnaius, has been fishing in dangerous waters. But the precipitating event of the story is the return of the Drakhaoul, as powerful and hungry as ever. And the only way to banish it permanently is to return the rubies—the tears of Artamon—to the eye of the carved dragon whence they were stolen. Ash takes her large and colorful cast of characters from horror to pathos, from triumph to betrayal, smoothly and convincingly.
A roller-coaster ride of events and emotions in the best modern fantasy manner.