Private Kaylin Neya is a Hawk, an agent of law and order in the City of Elantra. Kaylin is a human, instead of a cat-like Leontine, Elf-like Barrani, or the Hawk-like Aerians, or even a dragon, but no one who knows her would make the mistake of calling her a "mere" human. Because Kaylin, whose arms and body are covered in mysterious and magical sigils, has had the misfortune to be at a confluence of events that is changing the very face of her city.
Born in the fiefs, those semi-kingdoms independent of Elantra and also serving as its first line of defense against the forces of choas and darkness that live in the unclaimed lands. The fief she was born in is now the property of a Barrani named Nightshade, who shares a mysterious connection with Kaylin. But a new fief has recently been claimed by a Dragon, with Kaylin's aid, and the fief itself is aware, also thanks to Kaylin. And a new race of people who have appeared from another world, also with Kaylin's help, have sought some shelter there because the inhabitants of Elantra at large don't trust them.
But now a new mystery has occurred. In the new Dragon fief, seven corpses have turned up, all identical. And when Kaylin goes to take a look at the bodies, she discovers that the woman may, in fact, be a dragon, which sets the entire court at odds. For there are no female dragons... are there? And the possibility that one might exist sends the court into turmoil. And the new race apparently revere the woman as their mentor and savior, the one who taught them how to reach into other worlds to escape the destruction of their own.
But who is killing off these women, and are they copies or real? And if she somehow appears again, can Kaylin keep her alive and rescue her from who or what is killing her over and over and over again? And can her allies keep Kaylin alive as well? The only solace for Kaylin is that all these problems keep putting off her audience with the Dragon Emperor, something she almost certainly would not survive. But is dying on the streets any better? Or can she somehow win a victory in both arenas and save another champion of the new race?
Kaylin has come far from the still frightened orphan she was, no matter her service to the Hawks and the Hawklord, but she still has lots of areas to improve in. She is deathly scared of her audience with the Dragon Emperor, and with good reason, but everything she has done for Elantra may not mean much to him or his court when he meets her, because she still can't speak Dragon properly, or give the necessary deference smoothly and elegantly.
But new concerns come up that may move up that meeting- the survival of what seems to be a single female Dragon, and the precursor of the arrival of the unnamed shadows that were chasing the newly arrived race to the city. Even though she thought she defeated the Shadows the last time, this proves not to be the case. But even if she defeats this new threat, how many more shadows will show up to bedevil Elantra and the Fiefs?
And Kaylin is finally growing up, able to finally deal with some of the trauma of her past, and aided by two new friends, she is beginning to see that her refusal to learn etiquette is only holding her back, and she has to do it or be called on her stupidity and refusal to learn. I can't wait to see what happens to Kaylin and Elantra next, the only problem is settling in for the wait for the next book to come out! Highly recommended series and book.