Rhennthyl is still recovering from when he prevented a bomb of the Ferran Envoy from blowing up a ball filled with L'Excelsian dignitaries, their wives and others. But he has made an enemy of High Holder Ryel D'Alte for blinding his son, who was using his status as an imager to assault young women.
Now that Rhenn has been declared a master imager, or Maitre D'Aspect- the lowest class of master imagers, Ryel feels justified in making Rhenn a target, sending him a formal declaration of the same, a simple silver knot on a card.
In hopes of keeping Rhenn out of trouble, his masters make him Liason to the Civic Patrol, but tell him to keep his eyes open. Rhenn does, and discovers that the Patrol isn't free from corruption as he might have thought. As he moves from working in the court to working with the advocates of the court, he discovers that at least some of the advocates are corrupt as well.
Warned by the family of Seliora, the woman he loves, he is able to keep out of the schemes of the corrupt. But when he is switched from the court to the streets, he must deal with assassins sent by Ryel who are seeking to take him out. Unfortunately, Rhenn learns that if he kills Ryel, the men of the family will be compelled to take up the blood feud against him.
But when Ryel expands his plans to work against Rhenn's family, and his machinations end in the death of Rhenn's brother, Rhenn must find a way to end the feud completely while rooting out the corruption in the guards and dealing with the plot of Tiempran priests in the slums known as the Taudis- as well as being mentor to a young boy from the Taudis who has power as an imager, and rooting out who has been killing young imagers.
A great number of tasks, to be sure, but can Rhenn fulfill his duties, end the feud and keep Ryel from bankrupting his family- all while still staying alive?
I know I said I was fed up with the way that L.E. Modesitt novels had fallen into a same old, same old routine, where the main character is always wrong and being chastised by his teachers, who make him write papers about why he is wrong and proving them right. Well, there is some of that in this book, but it is greatly toned down this time, which made it readable to me.
Actually, more than readable. I found myself getting drawn into the story much more than I usually do. This was a very enjoyable book, and while the master imagers still disapprove of Rhenn's methods and inability to be subtle, He doesn't get any more than some disapproval and some talking to.
It may be because Rhenn is a Maitre D'Aspect- a master, even though he is a master of the lowest level. So no more writing student papers for him, even though he continues to learn, it's generally a self-directed learning, and he even learns to be a little bit subtle- most of Modesitt's heroes are unsuited to being a master spider at the center of a web of plots, pulling strings here and there- they tend to be more men or women of action.
This book was a welcome change, and I'm sure that this isn't the end of the series, even though Rhenn has a permanent post at the end of it, the war with Tiempre is heating up, and there is sure to be more adventure to come. And yes, I will read the next book. Recommended.