Freshly graduated Master Physician Narsi Lif-Tahm has left his home in Anacleto and journeyed to the imposing royal capital of Cieloalta, intent upon keeping the youthful oath he made to a troubled writer. But in the decade since Narsi gave his pledge, Atreau Vediya, has grown from an anonymous delinquent to a man renowned for penning bawdy operas and engaging in scandalous affairs.
What Narsi―and most of the larger world―cannot know is the secret role Atreau plays as spymaster for the Duke of Rauma.
After the Cadeleonian royal bishop launches an unprovoked attack against the witches in neighboring Labara, Atreau will require every resource he can lay his hands upon to avert a war. A physician is exactly what he needs. But with a relentless assassin hunting the city and ancient magic waking, Atreau fears that his actions could cost more than his own honor. The price of peace could be his friends’ lives.
Court intrigue and mutual pining abound in this fantasy series launch, which returns readers to Hale's Cadeleonian Series universe. Master Physician Narsi Lif-Tahm arrives in the city of Cieloalta seeking Atreau Vediya, an author and infamous libertine he's enamored with. Narsi doesn't expect to be drawn into opposing Prince Remes's schemes to assassinate Fedeles Quemanor, Duke of Rauma, and others who could contest the prince's claim to the throne of Cadeleon. Hierro Fueres uses a painful magical Brand of Obedience to force swordmaster Ariz Plunado to carry out some of the murders integral to Remes's plans. Meanwhile, Fedeles struggles to battle the shadow curse that fills him with the urge to kill. As these men's lives intersect, each finds his role to play not just in the future of the kingdom, but in an age-old magical battle that threatens their entire world. Ariz, Atreau, Fedeles, and Narsi's distinct voices encourage readers to invest in their romantic and political entanglements, as well as the threats to their shared home. Many threads are left unresolved, but readers will eagerly hunt down Hale's other Cadeleonian stories while waiting for sequels to this one.