Back among the wizards and dragons of Earthsea (Tales from Earthsea; Tehanu, etc.). When humans die in Earthsea their spirits flee across the wall of stones to the Dry Land; in that dark, dead, dusty country beneath unchanging stars, they become shadows with no thought for their former selves or lives. Humble sorcerer Alder passionately loved his wife, the witch Lily. When she died tragically young, Alder somehow reached across the wall of stones to touch her, establishing a bond that transcended death. Now, the dead are using this bond to pull down the wall dividing life from death. What if they emerge into the living world? Too terrified to sleep, Alder brings his tale to Ged, the former archmage, thence to King Lebannen and his advisors, among them Ged's wife Tenar and their adoptive daughter Tehanu, a dragon in human form. Other problems beset Lebannen: dragons are attacking islands in the west, apparently intending to drive humans out of Earthsea; and the new king of the barbarian Kargad Lands sends his daughter Seserakh to be Lebannen's bride—a commitment the angry king is unwilling to make. Meanwhile, Earthsea's greatest wizards are divided among themselves over admitting women to the wizard's school, and the advisability of consulting dragons instead of fighting them. The key to the situation lies in the most ancient lore, forgotten by all but a few: that dragons and people once were one.
Earthsea's once irresistible charms are fading, with no new vistas, little action, and only intermittent involvement with characters who simply talk their way to a resolution.