In this book, Moirin briefly returns to Terre d’Ange with her husband Bao, then ends up traveling through Central America (or rather, Terra Nova) in search of the missing Dauphin of Terre d’Ange. She also ends up acting as a sort of godparent to Jehanne and Daniel’s daughter Desirée and locks horns with her ex-lover Raphael who has put his ability to communicate with ants to very sinister use. Moirin also does her by now usual “fix a society by having sex with a ruler” shtick and manages to make friends in unusual places. (Yes, I am being flippant.)
There is not a great deal of strong action in this book, and there is occasionally a feeling of being dragged around by the nose by the plot. (Which actually is not very surprising considering that Moirin is being dragged along by the gods in the story. I just wish the divine mandates were a little more subtle, instead of being huge anvils dropping from the sky.)
The political side of the story was interesting and Carey does a fairly good job of portraying Moirin as someone getting into a situation she knows is very much over her head, but going in anyway. On the other hand, a great deal of the tension you would expect to be present was missing because you could be fairly certain that any danger Moirin might end up in would be averted by some fortuitous happening. (Which is largely why I have such a mixed general reaction to Carey’s Terre d’Ange books; the entire ‘jerked around by the plot’ aspect tends to get on my nerves. I was not able to finish the last few books in the Kushiel set because of this.)
Moirin has a lot of strong moments in this novel, and the continuing and developing relationship between Bao and Moirin is sweet and engaging, though not without its problems. (Being married to a woman who occasionally has a divine mandate to sleep around with specific people would be a little unhappy making if you happen to come from a culture where this is generally frowned upon.) The tensions this time around were much less in line with the similar tensions that existed between Phèdre and Joscelin.
While I liked many of the character interactions, I feel that Carey is not very good at writing child characters. (Desiree acts more like the representation of how one might expect a three year old to act instead of like a three year old, if that makes any sense. I just felt that she was a little too articulate for her age. On the other hand, Carey manages to portray emotional abuse and neglect in a more or less emotionally realistic fashion, so she gets points for that.)