Od, the elusive founder of the great school of magic in the capital city of the Kingdom of Numis, has a couple of concerns. First, she needs a new gardener, whom she finds in Brenden Vetch, a mysteriously talented young man. Od also has issues with the way magic in Numis is controlled and bound by law. She doesn't want it to be so restricted.

Brenden is a cipher and the catalyst for nearly all the action in the book, but the most appealing characters are Princess Sulys and Mistral, the magician Tyramin's daughter. They both work a similar kind of magic—one disregarded and overlooked by those in power, much to their chagrin when it turns out that this supposedly dangerous magic is, in fact, quite useful.

McKillip manages to successfully keep a number of different plots going in what seem to be divergent directions, until it becomes clear that they're all just different aspects of the central problem of the novel, which is what to do with this potentially dangerous magic in the world? McKillip's writing is, as usual, poetic in its lyricism, and her characters inhabit a fascinating world that is a joy to visit, even for a little while. (Jun., 320 pp., $22.95)
Reviewed by: 
Natalie A. Luhrs