Second installment of Deitz’s extended fantasy, begun with Bloodwinter (1999), about the quarreling kingdoms of frigid Eron and desert Ixti. Eronese master craftsman Avall has discovered a remarkable gem that, when fed blood, confers various mental powers. Others, however, scheme to relieve him of it: Avall’s rival, the rapist Eddyn; the exiled Prince Kraxxi of Ixti (how useful it would be, he thinks, in the war his father is planning against Eron); and a bunch of renegade priests, fearful that the gem allows direct contact with their eightfold god (thus rendering their priesthood superfluous). Matters wallow along in a morass of plots, treachery, double-dealing, and cliffhangers. Deitz does supply a recap, but overall this is heavy and rather unpleasant stuff, best suited to fans of the previous book.