Shattered Pillars is a very transitional book that mostly continues the plot points introduced in Range of Ghosts, with additional complications as the bad guys and good guys play Spy vs. Spy. Temur continues his quest to rescue his lover Edene, unaware that she has already escaped. Edene in turn is unaware at first that she was actually allowed to escape. (Nor, when she finds out, is she able to do very much about it.) He also continues his plan become Khagan.
While Temur is working on acquiring allies, Edene also acquires allies out in the desert when she discovers that a ring she stole from her kidnapper enables her to control ghuls. The ghuls are more than happy to declare her their queen, and Edene is more than happy to use them as an army. (Great minds thinking alike, Edene has decided to raise an army for Temur, and does not appear to care very much that her army is made of very scary carrion eaters.)
Meanwhile in Samarkand’s homeland, people are falling ill from a mysterious epidemic that turns out to be diabolic in origin. While wizards attempt to find a cure for the disease, it quickly becomes apparent that a member of the royal family was responsible for letting the demons into the empire. Of course, the person behind the sudden demon infestation is the same person who is responsible for kidnapping Edene and who is also responsible for a lot of other things–the leader of the Nameless cult, who seems to be trying for a Xanatos Gambit. (At this point, it seems more like Xanatos Three Dimensional Speed Chess.) The cult leader also seems to be working on manipulating Temur’s cousin and a number of other bewildering projects.
For a relatively short novel, Shattered Pillars covers a lot of distance, and the plot continues to be engaging and very, very complicated. The pacing of this book is very fast, and I finished it very quickly once I got started. I am looking forward to seeing where Bear is going with this.