The middle two volumes were focused purely on the desert, but this volume opens in Outremer, showing something of what happened to the people who were left behind. Magister Fulke is still intent on war against Surayon, and when he marches out, Sieur Anton marches with him — still hoping to find his errant squire Marron.
Those of the desert have a more pressing concern — finding and rescuing Julianne, who was abducted on her wedding night. They follow the trail to a trade city on the border between Outremer and the lands of the Sharai.
That’s her second wedding night. She ran away from her first husband on her first wedding night, hating to leave him but following a more urgent promise. Imber hasn’t giving up hope of finding her, and joins a march to the trade City in search of the coming war.
Then there’s the mysterious preacher and his flock of the not-quite-healed; an army, perhaps, for someone who chooses to use it that way.
And they’re all aimed at Surayon, with one tiny and personal battle near the end of this volume paving the way for a much larger battle in the next and final volume of the series.
This is only the first half of what was originally published in the UK as a single volume, but stands well on its own as a prelude to the final twisting together of the various plot strands that have been laid out over the course of the series. Even now it is impossible to predict how events will play out and whether any of the characters will find what they desire. It’s beautifully written, as ever, and shows us still more of the characters and their world.