The second book in the Counselors and Kings series set in Halruaa in the Forgotten Realms setting.
After the events in the first book, the Magehound, the main characters Matteo and Tizigone have gone their separate ways. Matteo has returned to the Jordaini School with his best friend Andris who is now translucent because of the evens on the Swamp. Even though the charges against Andris have been dropped, Andris himself in convinced that he should have been put to death because he’s guilty of treason. The duo wants to interrogate the elven Magehound Kiva who managed to recruit Andris into to her army and into treason. However, Andris gets his hands on books which reveal dangerous secrets about the origins of the Jordaini school and about Kiva. So, he decides to interrogate her alone.
Matteo follows his friend but when he reaches the temple where Kiva was imprisoned, he learns that she had escaped and Andis pursued her to the Mhair jungles. Matteo and his two Jordaini friends continue to follow Kiva and Andris. Unfortunately, they lose the trail and Matteo is called back to his job as the Queen’s counselor.
Meanwhile the former street urchin and thief Tzigone is trying to adjust to her new life as a wizard’s apprentice. However, the many rules of a wizard’s life chafe her. She’s also trying to find out everything she can about her mother, Keturah, who was a mighty wizard. Luckily, she already has many of the skills she’s going to need: the arts of disguise and thieving.
Kiva and Andris meet in the middle of the jungle. Andris tells her that they have a common enemy: a group of conniving wizards called the Cabal. If Kiva will destroy them, Andris will work for her once again. The Magehound agrees and contacts the local wild elves. She’s going to have to persuade the distrustful elves to help her destroy an old enemy.
As is typical for a FR novel, most of the characters are clearly evil or good. Matteo is very clearly Lawful Good and very uncomfortable with all of the scheming going around him. The enemies are evil: the ancient and powerful wizard Akhlaur, who lives now in Water’s elemental level, the scheming Lord Mayor who is trying to overthrow the King, and the Crinti. The Crinti are a cruel half-drow race who seem to exist merely as Kiva’s minions.
Tizigone is a more ambiguous character. As an orphaned street urchin she must feed herself any way she can, mostly doing minor thieving and cons. There’s also an innocence to her; she doesn’t expect people to be evil.
The story concentrates on plotting and questing. The wizards and Kiva are plotting to get what they each want and Tizigone is sneaking around. Also, she’s looking for information about her mother while Matteo is looking for information about his father whom he never knew. There are also a few fight scenes but except for the ending, they almost feel like forced additions; rolled from an random encounter table.
Cunningham tells an interesting tale even if it has many familiar elements. The plot moves along briskly and the characters are entertaining.
An excerpt is at the author’s site.