The latest novel by Kay shares the setting of several others by him, including Children of Earth and Sky, reviewed here recently, and A Brightness Long Ago, reviewed here in 2020. The setting is a world much like ours, but not ours, evidenced by its two moons and different but similar geography. A few other Kay books are set there as well, some at a much earlier time. The setting is similar to medieval Europe and the Middle East in our world. This book takes place before Children, but after A Brightness (sort of). It’s complicated. Suffice to say, these are all worth reading, long books of the kind that you hate to see end. The cast is large (there’s a full list at the beginning with explanations), the viewpoint characters are varied and diverse, the story takes place over a short period of time, but one full of era-changing events. There’s a small amount of fantasy in this one that barely affects the story.
It begins with a carefully planned assassination of the khalif or ruler of a city on the southern coast of the inland sea similar to our Mediterranean. A ship full of corsairs or pirates run by Rafel and his partner Nadia have been contracted to do this, hiring a third person, Ghazzali, to infiltrate the palace in Abeneven and poison the khalif. The plot succeeds too well, as Ghazzali not only poisons the ruler, but escapes with his two most valuable possessions. Nadia, learning this, realizes she must now kill the assassin to keep him quiet, and this sets in motion a chain of events that will bring Nadia and Rafel to many adventures and before several powerful leaders in Batiara, the story’s equivalent of Italy, changing their lives and fortunes, and eventually causing a war.
I love the writing of these books, even if the chronology is sometimes a bit confusing. Of the three mentioned here, I think Children of Earth and Sky is the most satisfying read, but I like this and Brightness nearly as much. Recommended.