It was a wonderful book to write, although it took just ages. Combining characters from Ashdod, Tencendor and Escator was nowhere as difficult as I’d imagined. Instead, it was a delight to sit Axis down with Maximilian of Escator, and to have StarDrifter hold the Goblet of the Frogs in his hands, and wonder.
Don’t expect to see many of the characters of the Tencendor series back. Axis and StarDrifter are the main ones, although others may make guest appearances from time to time (please do not expect to see Faraday and Drago again – you won’t, I concluded their story at the end of the previous series). You may be surprised, though at the number of Icarii who managed to survive the fall of Tencendor (they’re such a wonderful race, I just had to bring them back).The action takes place in Coroleas, in the northern Kingdoms (east of Escator), in the strange Outlands, and down in Isembaard, an empire which has swallowed up Ashdod.
It is about five years since the conclusion of the Wayfarer Redemption, about eight years since the conclusion of Beyond the Hanging Wall, and some two thousand years after Boaz and Tirzah nipped Nzame’s hopes in the bud in Threshold. StarDrifter has been moping about in Coroleas, Axis has been drifting through the Otherworld with Azhure, and Maximilian of Escator has been … well, looking for a wife.
Not very successfully. Maximilian (or Maxel to those closest to him) is a strange man, clearly marked by his seventeen years trapped in the Veins. He has odd habits – strange shadowy habits. He has a lover, an Icarii woman called StarWeb, but he just can’t seem to find a decent woman to marry. Everyone has declined his proposals. Then, out of the blue, comes an offer apparently too good to be true. Ishbel Lagarde, an Outlander noblewoman, is looking for a husband. Her guardians are prepared to offer her to Maximilian, together with her massive inheritances and dowries.
Ishbel owns half the eastern Kingdoms. Maximilian is a lucky man.
Or is he?
The problem is that Ishbel’s guardians are the strange Order of the Coil, who live in Serpent’s Nest in the far north of the Outlands. Another character, Isaiah, Tyrant of Isembaard, refers to them as obnoxious psychic murderers, which is a fairly accurate summation of who and what the Coil are.
Maximilian is tempted by the promise of Ishbel’s riches, but cautious of her association with the Coil.
Just how closely associated with them is she?
While Maximilian sets off to meet Ishbel and discover for himself what kind of woman she is, StarDrifter falls in with the rather vile Salome of Sidon, the most powerful woman in Coroleas. Meanwhile, in Isembaard, Isaiah plans an invasion of the north. He has allied with a most unlikely man called Lister, who calls himself the Lord of the Skraelings. While Isaiah invades from the south, Lister plans a simultaneous invasion from the north, catching the northern kingdoms in a pincer movement.
Lister controls the mass of Skraelings who inhabit the frozen wastes to the north. But he is no Gorgrael. Of everyone in this book he is hiding the most secrets, and one of the more powerful of these secrets is the strange race who aid him in his invasion plans – the Lealfast.
Isaiah certainly doesn’t trust Lister. As insurance against what he believes to be Julian’s almost certain betrayal, Isaiah manages to call back from the Otherworld the one man most sure to aid him against the Skraelings: Axis SunSoar.
Meanwhile, Darkglass Mountain – previously known as Threshold – sits brooding in the sun. Well may Boaz and Tirzah thought to have destroyed it, but they did not count upon Threshold’s will to live.
And to take revenge.
©2006 Sara Douglass Enterprises