Once again, readers journey to the settled lands of Aronsdale, Harsdown and the Misted Cliffs. Mel Dawnfield Escar, now wife to Cobalt the Dark, is happy with her husband but struggling to control her developing mage powers without a mentor. Meanwhile, Cobalt must control the dark demons left from his abused childhood as he adds the Misted Cliffs to his territory empire upon the death of his cruel grandfather. Mel's uncle Drummer has avoided all of the political court maneuvering by traveling the land as a minstrel, using his mage power lightly to charm audiences.

Drummer is taken hostage by the Queen of Taka Mal in an effort to deter Cobalt. This plan seriously backfires. Cobalt wants to destroy the place in retaliation, while Mel wants peace. Drummer wants the queen, and evil neighbors want the queen's throne. In classic Asaro fashion, armies, plots, magic, twists, turns, secrets and characters must grow in spirit to meet these various challenges.

This novel begins slowly, especially if the reader hasn't read Asaro's previous books. But stick with it. The story moves like a roller-coaster ride. It starts off slow and jerky, builds up, then it's over the top and you're off. (Jul., 448 pp., $14.95)
Reviewed by: 
Bunny Callahan