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The bestselling author of The Fionavar Tapestry weaves a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands--where empires and faiths collide.
From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request--and possibly to do more--and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman posing as a doctor's wife but sent by Seressa as a spy.
The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he's been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif--to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.
As these lives entwine, their fates--and those of many others--will hang in the balance when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world....