The world is in crisis, for power is disappearing from Earth's power stations as soon as it is made and the best scientists in the world don't know why. Does it mean that the war is beginning - a war that the government doesn't know about and wouldn't believe if it was told? A war where the enemy, Lord Shambles, attacks Earth with sorcery against which it has no defence?
Only two children know the truth - Runcible Jones and Mariam Orpiment - for they narrowly escaped Lord Shambles' depraved clutches on the magical world of Iltior last year. They've got to stop him before he brings down the darkness forever, but Runcie is trapped in Grindgrim, the worst school in the country, and no one will listen to him anyway.
And Mariam has been sent to school on the other side of the world, unaware that Lord Shambles is hunting her for the priceless secret that only Mariam knows.