|This article does not cite any sources. (January 2008)|
|Cover artist||Chip Kidd (designer)|
|Series||Lives of the Mayfair Witches|
|Genre||Horror, gothic, science fiction|
|Published||September 12, 1993|
|Preceded by||The Witching Hour|
The novel begins shortly after the mysterious disappearance of Dr. Rowan Mayfair, recently married to contractor Michael Curry. Michael, feeling betrayed by Rowan, has sunk into a depression helped along by the useless drugs prescribed to him after his close encounter with death.
Along comes the sexually adventurous Mona Mayfair, a precocious teenager and powerful witch and Rowan's cousin sharing lines of descent from Julien. She seduces Michael, causing him to snap out of his stupor and renew his vow to find his wife at all costs. He is now convinced that she hasn't gone willingly.
And though it was she who spirited her mutant child Lasher away from the house, she is now a prisoner of the monster she has spawned. His first two attempts at impregnating her are failures ending in miscarriage, but he is successful the third time around. As he accompanies her throughout Europe, Rowan manages to send off DNA samples to colleagues in San Francisco. They discover that Lasher is a completely different species, and that Rowan herself has a genetic abnormality, polyploidy, or 92 chromosomes, which was probably what made Lasher's quasi-supernatural birth at all possible in the first place.
The dyad returns to America where Lasher sets out to impregnate other female members of the Mayfair family. All attempts are unsuccessful as the women immediately miscarry and hemorrhage to death. Rowan manages to escape Lasher, and after hitchhiking to Louisiana, she collapses in a field and gives birth to Emaleth, a female Taltos. Rowan's last words to Emaleth are to find Michael, which she sets out to do, thinking that Rowan has died.
Rowan is found and is rushed to a nearby hospital where she is diagnosed as being in a state of toxic shock. An emergency hysterectomy is performed to save her life, eliminating all chances of her ever giving birth again. She is taken home to Michael where she remains in a deep coma.
Much of the book is set into four sections of "Julien's Story" which delineates the life of Julien Mayfair and what he has discovered of the entity known as Lasher.
Lasher returns to the house to tell Michael and Aaron his story of his past life. Born to Queen Anne of England, the second wife of Henry VIII, and a man from Donnelaith, Lasher is believed to be a saint known as Ashlar, and is quickly taken away by his father to Donnelaith. His father is the son of the Earl of Donnelaith, and from there he is sent to Italy to become a priest. He returns to Scotland after Elizabeth I takes the throne, and is killed there while performing Christmas Mass by followers of the Protestant reformer John Knox. He knows nothing again until Suzanne calls him back into existence.
Michael patiently hears Lasher out, and when his story is complete, Michael wastes no time in killing him and burying him under the great oak in the yard. Soon after, he discovers Emaleth in Rowan's room, feeding her the highly nutritious milk from her breasts. Rowan is revived, but upon seeing Emaleth before her, she panics and screams at Michael to kill her. Michael refuses to, so Rowan grabs a gun and shoots her daughter in the head. Rowan immediately realizes what she's done, and crying for her daughter, insists that she be the one to bury her alongside Lasher under the oak tree there.