Marit was pretty sure she had been murdered. She vividly recalled the assassin's dagger, and her dying vision had shown her the next world - but her spirit had not made the journey. She woke alone, sprawled on a Guardian's altar, with more questions than answers.
The Guardians once ruled the Hundred, but disappeared in ages past, leaving reeves to manage the peace in their stead. But Marit finds this peace has been shattered as a desperate army ravages the land, and its leaders walk in shadow, wearing the cloaks of lost Guardians. As she searches for meanings in a changed world, Marit finds her old love Joss and the Outlander Anji struggling to maintain order amidst chaos. But her own enemies are drawing close. Marit tries to untangle the web of betrayals that connect her murder with the razing of the countryside, but she can't run forever. She will be found and there will be choices: complicity or death.
In this many-layered second installment in the Crossroads fantasy series (after 2007's Spirit Gate), Marit, an eagle-riding reeve, awakens as a spirit three years after her death and slowly realizes she's become one of the nine Guardians, protectors of justice who wield god-given powers. Soon Marit discovers that some of her fellow Guardians lead forces plaguing the land, while others hide or resist. Meanwhile, among the living, war rewrites the social order, and those of different religions and homelands make common cause. Elliott follows Qin soldier Anji and his troubled, lonely wife, Mai; Marit's former lover, reeve marshal Joss; and Kirya, a tribal warrior who sells herself into slavery to protect her brother. Each must balance cultural imperatives with a broader view of justice, and survival with mercy. The cosmology and politics may confuse newcomers, but the human dilemmas grip the reader right through to the abrupt final cliffhanger.