It's been a year since the Challenge, and Sonea is finally treated with some respect by the other novices.
This third and final volume first concentrates on the mysterious murders that have been recently committed in the city of Imardin. One thing is certain, Black Magic has been used to kill these people. Aware of the High Lord's secret knowledge of this forbidden power, Administrator Lorlen and Lord Rothen's are more and more lead to think that the murderer might be Akkarin.
However, Sonea knows these dead are actually Sachakan slaves sent by their master to kill the High Lord, so the latter was merely defending himself. But she still finds it hard to feel at ease around her Guardian, and Akkarin needs her trust. He has no choice but to share his secret story with her, telling her of Kariko's desire to avenge his brother Dakova's death, and of his impending invasion with other Ichani, outcast Sachakan black magicians, each a hundred times stronger than several Guild Magicians. As utter destruction threatens the city of Imardin, Kyralia and the rest of the Allied Lands face reduction of its entire people to slavery.
In the meantime, Cery has earned respect among the Thieves, and befriended a Sachakan woman who says she can help him predict the next murders. As for Ambassador Dannyl, he's back in Elyne to investigate on a band of rebel magicians.
I absolutely loved witnessing the evolution of Akkarin's character, as well as that of his relationship with Sonea. Their trek in the mountains created images that reminded me of the Kalbarri and Karijini gorges in Australia, the ambush in Calia was in the vein of a great Clint Eastwood Western, and the final chase in the twisted streets of Imardin was like a giant game of hide-and-seek. My only regret is I wish there were more loose ends tied up after the grand finale, which concludes a little too abruptly in my opinion. Otherwise it's a fantastic series, a very engrossing story.