At the start of the rousing conclusion to Ash's fantasy trilogy (after 2004's Prisoner of the Iron Tower), King Enguerrand of Francia has the five Tears of Artamon, the magical jewels that give their possessor claim to Novaya Rossiya. This means a crisis for Novaya Rossiya's Emperor Eugene, particularly since the Francians have kidnapped his chief magus, Kaspar Linnaius, and are going to burn him at the stake. Eugene makes an alliance of convenience with Gavril Nagarian, Lord Drakhaon of Azhkendir, who goes to Kaspar's rescue. Meanwhile, Gavril's prematurely aged lover, Kiukiu, must travel just as far in the opposite direction to find a cure; Eugene's pregnant empress, Astasia, runs away to Francia; and Eugene's daughter, Karila, has to go into hiding from would-be usurpers. The large cast may be hard to follow for new readers, but is uniformly well-developed and convincing, as is the whole world of the trilogy, with its vivid 18th-century European flavor and fallen angels who evoke Paradise Lost. Lovers of big, complex fantasy sagas (think Robert Jordan or George R.R. Martin) will be well pleased.