This is the fourth of Needham’s novels that deal with Richard Fauconbois, and it takes place several months after the end of the House of the Paladin. In it a former member of the dissident party that Dick worked for, decides that things are not going as they should and that the young Emperor must be removed. Working with a hired assassin and a woman seeking revenge for her brother’s death, they begin to stir up trouble. However, Dick’s mentor, Far Away Moses is concerned about his old friend, and Dick is soon involved. He is faced with the unwelcome need to reconcile loyalties to various groups of old friends and his determination never to betray them brings tragedy in the end.
As an adult, I began to feel more sharply than ever the lack of an ideological context to Needham’s various revolutionary groups. These conspire to replace various bad monarchs with good ones rather than do away with monarchy altogether, which would ring more truly. However, at least with earlier novels there really was a bad monarch to be dealt with. Here, the entire conspiracy seemed very artificial, and although the dilemmas faced by Dick are a sign of his maturity, I was left feeling somewhat dissatisfied with this book.
This book is not as easy to come by as earlier novels, and this was the first time I had read it.