Elaine and Johan are preparing to leave Golden City, with Daria and the travellers, in order to search for the Witch-King. The Grand Sorceress instructs Inquisitor Cass to help them. But before Elaine can leave she is arrested by two Inquisitors on the orders of the Emperor. When she resists she is hit with a powerful spell that forces her to concentrate all her efforts on protecting her mind from its intrusion. Taken to the palace she finds that the Grand Sorceress has been removed and the Throne has accepted an heir to the Empire. Realising this has to be the work of the Witch-King, Elaine must defeat the spell that is eating away at her defences if she is to escape and destroy him. Meanwhile, Johan, Daria and Cass are trying to find a way to get to Elaine and break her out of the cell in which she is being held.
The Golden City is still widely devastated from the disastrous battle for power that followed the death of the previous Grand Sorcerer. The recent escalating breakdown of social order can only be made worse by the return of an Emperor and the imposition of martial law. The Privy Councillors and Heads of the Great Houses succumb to the power of the new Emperor, as he amasses a huge army. It is up to Elaine and her friends, with some unexpected help, to prevent an all-out war.
Christopher Nuttall have a habit of bringing down the worlds that he builds up. Usually with equal measures of chaos and mayhem. I did not expect him to do it with the Bookworm universe though. Unfortunately I have to say that I do not like the direction this book took. Now, do not misunderstand me. This is a good book. I just do not like the path the story took.
Elaine is back, obviously, and the story continues more or less where the previous book left off with Lady Spinner as the new Grand Sorceress. Then all goes to hell more or less right away when the new Emperor shows up and ascends to power. Needless to say the new Emperor is not one of the nice fellows.
From there on most of the book focuses on Elaine and her friends escaping the clutches of the emperor. Death and mayhem accompanies the new Emperor’s regime and there are a few losses and victims, not all of them mortal, during our friends journey that did indeed sadden me.
Mr. Nuttall also pits magic against science in this book. He even goes as far as to question the future of magic in this world. This is parts that I am not really very thrilled about. I was quite happy that this book series had its foots fairly solidly planted in a magic fantasy land. It made it nicely different from other book series from Mr. Nuttall. Maybe this is why I am not too thrilled with the turn of events.
Having said all the above, this is a good book. It is very very far from being a bad book. As usual Mr. Nuttall is very good at his world building, or in this case maybe I should say destruction instead of building. The characters are well done and on the whole it is a very good adventure story. My gripes with this particular book are quite subjective to my tastes and expectations of course.
The book ends pretty much in the middle of the particular story arc that it started. It is not really a cliffhanger ending but it has less of a satisfying conclusion than the previous books. Obviously that also means that the stage is set for the next chapter of the adventure. I for certain hope that a fourth book will be written. One where Elaine and her friends strikes back, preferably without bringing down the rest of this magical world.