This is the third book of Karen Hancock's “Legends of Guardian-King” series. After the trials of exile, slavery, gladiator games, a civil war against his own brother, and a devastating attack by a monster, Abramm Kalladorne is finally to be crowned the king of Kiriath. Six months have passed after Abramm had fought and defeated the morwhool, a doglike creature made specifically to destroy him. The victory came with a price: Abramm's left arm had been injured, so bad that he still cannot use it well, and one side of his face was scarred. Dressed for the coronation, Abramm orders to uncover the mirror that has been veiled ever since the morwhool encounter, and for the first time takes a look at his face. The sight leaves him shaken; what his physicians predicted to be barely noticeable white lines turned into thick, red scars going all the way from his brow to the chin.
Becoming a scarred cripple is far from the only difficulty Abramm has to deal with. Hostile Esurhite armies are marching ahead, threatening to conquer his realm; rumor has it that they are creating magical etherworld corridors that would enable them to shorten the distance and send their troops right to Abramm's doorstep. Abramm's brother Gillard, although defeated in the civil war, still has his supporters. Gillard had also suffered in the morwhool attack: the monster had bitten him and sucked out his life force, leaving the prince shrunken, wasted, and unconscious for all these months. Nevertheless, Gillard is still a threat; Abramm knows that there will be rescue attempts, especially if Gillard awakes.
Despite Abramm's concerns, the coronation goes well. Now official King of Kiriath, Abramm proceeds to take steps to protect his lands. For that, he offers an alliance to the kingdom of Chesedh, asking to marry Princess Briellen, the first daughter of the Chesedhan king – even as he realizes his growing love for her sister, Princess Madeleine who lives at the Kiriathan court and works on some historical research for Abramm. Madeleine returns his feelings, but she is the second daughter, through whom, according to the Chesedhan laws, the royal bloodline does not go. In order to seal the alliance, Abramm has to marry the first daughter. He proceeds with his plan, and Briellen arrives to Kiriath. The stunningly beautiful princess is disgusted with Abramm's scars; she is also suspicious about her sister, whom the rumors have made the king's mistress. Abramm knows the rumors as well. Although he and Madeleine do not act on their feelings and try to hide them, their attraction for each other is noticed by others. Abramm makes the hard decision to send Madeleine away. He tells her to sail to a nearby island, supposedly to do some research in its fortress, but Madeleine knows the true reason very well. Still, she agrees to go.
Madeleine sails away, and in a few days her ship is captured by Esurhites – approximately at the same time Abramm's wedding to her sister should take place. But what Madeleine does not know is that Briellen had been caught in bed with another man just the night before, and the wedding is off. Esurhites, on the other hand, are amazingly well-informed. Not only they know about the cancelled wedding, they are aware that it is Madeleine whom Abramm really loves. They decide to use her as a bait, to lure Abramm into a trap. When he hears that Madeleine is captured, Abramm runs to the rescue, but he is not so unprepared as the Esurhites think. Having discovered supernatural powers of his royal regalia, the crown and the scepter, he takes them with and manages to shut down the magical corridor the Esurhites had been using. Madeleine's escape helps the rescue mission as well.
Chesedh, still wishing to have an alliance, offers Abramm to marry Madeleine who is now made the first daughter instead of disgraced Briellen. Abramm marries the woman he loves, and five years of peace are granted to him and his country. However, troubles are not over. Gillard, his brother, did wake up and escape. He starts a riot when Abramm is away and captures Queen Madeleine and her two young sons. Thus begins a new story, which is going to be continued in Book 4 of the series.
This report prepared by Laura Southcombe