Lois McMaster Bujold has won the Hugo Award four times, and the Nebula Award twice. In this, her first epic fantasy, we join Cazaril - a former soldier and courtier who is about to embark on a perilous journey rife with lethal treacheries, demonic magic and scheming characters.
Lord Cazaril has been in turn courier, courtier, castle-warder and captain; now he is but a crippled ex-galley slave seeking nothing more than a menial job in the kitchens of the Dowager Provincara, the noble patroness of his youth. But Fortune's wheel continues to turn for Cazaril, and he finds himself promoted immediately to the exalted and dangerous position of secretary-tutor to Iselle, the beautiful, fiery sister of the heir to Chalion's throne.
Amidst the decaying splendour and poisonous intrigue of Chalion's ancient capital, Cardegoss, Cazaril is forced to encounter both old enemies and surprising allies, as he seeks to lift the curse of misfortune that clings to the royal family of Chalion, and to all who come too close to them . . .