In keeping with the recent trend of starting in the thick of the action, this sequel to 2009’s The Warded Man picks up in the heat of Jardir’s conquest of the greenlands. This choice may pull in new readers but risks alienating returning ones, since series hero Arlen Bales doesn’t even appear until midbook. Jardir, who seemed to mostly be a villain in the first book, is made more sympathetic through a flashback to his childhood warrior training and the machinations of his psychically gifted chief wife, Inevera, who seems part Bene Gesserit and part Lady Macbeth as she plots his rise to power. Romantic entanglements occupy much of the book and lead to an abrupt conclusion that would benefit from a gentler epilogue, but is sure to leave fans on tenterhooks waiting for the last installment.

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