After the Witch Ravenna killed her husband, Maximillian Persimius. Ishbel Brunel Persimius brought him back from death with the skills and power she inherited from her position as a priestess of the Serpent Coil. Now, ensconced in the fortress known as Elcho Falling, whose power they have raised to deny the victory to an evil power known as "The One", and allied with a people known as the Lealfast, they await the arrival of the One and his army. Little do they know that the Lealfast are already allied with the One, and are working as his double agents within Elcho Falling.
But is it really unknown? Because when the Lealfast rise up on the One's orders and strike out at the Icarii, especially members of the Strikeforce set up by their leader and hero, Axis SunSoar. With the number of Icarii already on the wane, losing any one of them is a hardship, but the Lealfast slaughter many before Isbelle marks them with the blood of her husband and forcibly expels them from Elcho Falling through magic. But the Lealfast have planned for this, and set up armed camps around the lake surrounding Elcho Falling. Only one Lealfast is left behind, Axis' lover, Inardle. Apparently, she has fallen in love with him, truly in love, and betrayed her own people to be with him.
But it hasn't gained her any friend in Axis. He is livid that she didn't see fit to warn him- or any of them, about what her people intended, and he regards her with scorn. Upset with herself, she accepts his scorn for a while, then points out that had she told him what her people intended, he'd still be treating her the same way, which Axis, in his heart of hearts, knows that she is right about, but he continues to reject and scorn her.
Not only have the Lealfast been expelled from Elcho Falling, but so has the one, which he is very upset about. he resolves to take out his rage on the Lord of Elcho Falling, Maximillian Persimius, and completely ignores the Lealfast, who decide to conquer Elcho Falling for themselves, and to deny it to The One. They take up their posts around the fortress and make plans to conquer and destroy it. Abd for that, they need Ravenna, Maximillian's Dream Witch lover, pregnant with his child and cursed by his wife.
Thanks to Ishbelle's curse, she is avoided by everyone, but Eleanon, leader of the Lealfast, can partially alleviate the curse, and make Ravenna practically unseeable by anyone in Elcho Falling. He wants her to implant monster eggs that the Twisted Spire, the artifact of Evil the One implanted in the basement of Elcho Falling, inside the walls of the fortress, and if she will do that for him, he will help her remove the curse entirely after Ishbelle and Maximillian are dead. Ravenna is upset with her own actions, particularly killing her own mother when she was full of the power of being Maxel's lover. Now, all she wants to do is to go back to being what she is, and maybe to have her son be the heir to the power of Elcho Falling. But she'd just settle for the both of them being safe, so she decides to give in to Eleanon.
Meanwhile, the Skraelings have an encounter with the former River God. Isaiah, where he realizes who and what they truly are: they are the former River Angels, a race tied to the waters who long ago decided that they were the pinnacle of creation and tried to destroy all the other races, who they viewed as an abomination since they were not as perfect a creation as the River Angels. Exiled from their watery home and cursed with an extreme fear of water, the only way they can regain their River Angel existence is to voluntarily drown themselves, which Isaiah tells them when they meet with him to parlay. The Skraelings are amazed and must decide for themselves if they want to change their existence.
This also impacts the Lealfast, who are half Skraeling, but the only one who discovers their River Angel ancestry and powers is Inardle, but her actions of killing the Lealfast who try to kill her and Axis is looked on with disappointment by the Skraelings, who hope that becoming River Angels means never having to kill again. They hope the transformation turns them into something better than they have been.
In the end, it comes down to Ravenna to completely finish off the One, by taking him to the land of nightmares, which he cannot escape, and that means that Ishbel must rescind her curse and make Ravenna's yet to be born son the heir to the Lordship of Elcho Falling once more- and Maxel and Ishbel must give up the power that the ownership of Elcho Falling gives them both, as well as destroy the One's source of power in this world. But can Ishbel forgive Ravenna, and will she agree to a life lived in the Lands of Dreams and Nightmares, from which she and her son can never return? And how can the army defeat the camps of the Lealfast, who are destroying Elcho Falling with vibrations, and the eggs of monsters implanted into it? The land may never again be the same, but can Maxel and his wife achieve triumph over their enemies without giving up who they are as people?
When I started this series, I kinda felt that it was almost a retread with what happened earlier in Sara Douglas's series. I had read most of them, and this series showed that they were almost all set in the same world at different points in history. Threshold was set on the same continent as the Wayfarer Redemption books, and here, they come to a big end that sees the One, Ruler of the Void, finally defeated and banished from the world- but not dead by the end, just imprisoned. Okay, there are at least two series of hers that aren't in this book- Her Crucible series, and the Troy Game, but still, reading this at first felt quite disheartening.
But it definitely picked up. Part of my dissatisfaction at first was in not realizing those series/books had been set in the same world, and to be honest, you sort of had to have read them to understand where much of this story was coming from. If you don't know who Tirza and Binah were, well, maybe that isn't very important. But if you haven't read the Wayfarer Redemption series, you will find your enjoyment of this series hampered, and you won't understand the character of Axis Sunsoar or why he is important to the Icarii and why he's considered such a hero. If you simply read this series, all you will know is that he's considered a hero, but he has really bad judgement where women are concerned.
But this volume (and the one before, to be honest) more than made up for my initial misgivings about the series. I found it enjoyable to read, even when painful and disturbing things were happening to the characters I cared about, and the ending promised another series for some time in the future (hopefully not with the return of the One- I got more than a little tired of him as a character after finishing the book. Well, I'll caveat that by saying I'd want to see some big changes in his character if he was to return.
Is this a good book? Yes, I would definitely say so. The story may seem a little scattered at first, because the characters who matter are scattered hither and yon over the continent, but the story itself pounds along, carrying the reader with it, until you arrive at the tense and suspense-filled conclusion. It's a triumphant ending for the series, and even though the major characters have changed a lot during the series, yes, I'd like to see them again, which is always my benchmark for something good, because a good writer leaves you wanting more. Highly recommended.