In another world, somewhere in space and time, two countries - Bellogard and Chorny - are locked in perpetual war, conducted by magic. Each of the main members of the two countries' courts - king, queen, prince, bishop, knight and squire - has their own form of magic, and special ways of moving magically. A war may continue for centuries, until one side succeeds in killing the other side's king, at which point the whole world vanishes, only to reappear and have the cycle begin again. . .
Pedino is a young Bellogardian who becomes the queen's squire and, as part of his training, is sent into a seedier part of the city to uncover a Chornian spy. During his adventures he meets and falls in love with a whore, Sara, who turns out to be a Chornian bishop's squire. Pedino succeeds in killing the other Chornian bishop - a remarkable achievement for a mere squire; but in the manoeuvres which follow Chorny proves to have outwitted its rival, and Pedino's whole world is threatened with extinction.
There have been many stories modelled on chess games, but none so ingenious and enjoyable as Ian Watson's latest novel. And, as one would expect from Watson, the story of Bellogard and Chorny is only the beginning. When Pedino and Sara manage to escape the destruction of their universe, they find themselves in a series of even more bizarre worlds operating under still stranger rules, as they seek to discover the purpose of their existence, and the meaning of their universe. Queenmagic, Kingmagic is Ian Watson in sparkling, exuberant form.