Roc, June 2002, 6.99, 352 pp.
In the kingdom of Moren, the capital city of Morenia is almost burnt to the ground by a fire whose origins are shrouded in mystery. King Hal, once thought daft by his own people, wants to rebuild the city but his coffers are practically bare. The people who helped put the fire out are suffering and dying from a plague known as firelung.
When the disease spreads to other castes and classes, Hal borrows money from the church at usury rates. To pay the loan off on time, Hal accedes to his councilors' wishes that he marry. He courts Princess Berylina of Liantine and begs Rani Trader to accompany him to negotiate on his behalf. She agrees even though she wants Hal to commit to rebuilding the Glasswright's Guild that his father dismantled. When they arrive in Liantine, their well thought out plans fall apart. Rani negotiates harder than she has ever done before to save her kingdom and Hal's throne.
This is the third Rani Trader book and it is the best book in the series. The protagonist has grown into a mature woman who realizes there is no such thing as instant gratification. Her friendship with the king is based on loyalty, honor and trust even when she doesn't agree with him. The bond is so strong no outsider can break it. The king's concern for his people and the sacrifices he is willing to make to alleviate their suffering is a beautiful thing to behold. Mindy j. Klasky has written a juicy epic fantasy that will appeal to fans of Mercedes Lackey.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner