First edition cover
|Author||Patricia A. McKillip|
|Cover artist||Kinuko Y. Craft|
|Publication date||June 7, 2005|
|Dewey Decimal||813/.54 22|
|LC Classification||PS3563.C38 O425 2005|
|Preceded by||Alphabet of Thorn|
|Followed by||Harrowing the Dragon|
The wizard Od, a giantess who travels mysteriously, accompanied by numerous injured animals, which she heals, saved the city of Kelior, founded a school of magic there, then disappeared into the wilderness. Hundreds of years later, she appears at Brenden Vetch's small farm, inviting him to study at her school to perfect the magic he wields over plants, and finds in them. After he makes the long journey to the city, Brenden discovers that Kelior, instead of being a bastion for learning and exploration, is fearful of unfettered magic; the king and his wizard Valoren Greye outlaw any new type of magic, which they see as a threat to Kelior's order and safety. They want magic to be subservient to their rulership.
As Brenden acclimates to his strange environment, Princess Sulys attempts to come to terms with her engagement to Valoren, a man she scarcely knows, which engagement was arranged by her father. But Valoren, and her father, take her for granted, and won't listen to her. Among other things, she wants Valoren to know that she has some magical power. Instead of preparing for her upcoming wedding, she prefers to converse with Ceta Thiel, a historian writing about Od. Her discoveries about the wizard puzzle her and her lover, Yar Ayrwood, who works at Od's school. Yar ventures out of the school and into the city to learn more, unintentionally involving his curious student Elver.
The wizard Valoren is too preoccupied to help with his wedding arrangements: Not only is Brenden proving to be an enigma, but a new magic-user, Tyramin, and his daughter Mistral have brought a magic show to the Twilight Quarter of the city. Believing these magicians to be dangerous, Valoren commands that Tyramin and Mistral are to be investigated. As the warden for the Twilight Quarter, Arneth Pyt has to obey Valoren's order, even as he falls in love with the mysterious Mistral.
When the king and Valoren try to suppress these new magics, an uprising that they could never foresee forces change upon the static kingdom. Mistral asks the king to allow Tyramin to perform for the king in the palace. (Actually, Tyramin has been dead for some time, but Mistral has presented him by illusion at performances. Sulys gets serious about magic, and stands up to her father during the performance, arguing that the king and Valoren have not been paying attention to her, and that Mistral should be allowed to practice her magic within Kelior. Yar and Valoren return from a search for Brenden, combined with an investigation of mysterious rock-like beings in the far north, and the beings, and Brenden, come with them. Elver turns out to be Od, in disguise. Od says that she wants the school to continue, but without the restraints imposed by the king, which she has experienced as Elver. The king agrees, and magic becomes an art again, rather than a trade.
- 2006 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Finalist
- Worlds Without End - 2006 Award Winners & Nominees . Retrieved 2009-10-23.