Brief synopsis Edit
The once peaceful west is now riven by The Anarchy, a conflict between the grasping mancers (magicians) who have taken over the ruling Council of Santhenar. Things are going to get far worse because, unknown to anyone, the summonstone is waking, and it's sending people, good and bad, off the rails.
Karan, being a sensitive, senses it at once. Llian, now disgraced and with his career as a Teller of the Great Tales in ruins, begins to fear that something deeper and darker underlies the Anarchy. And he's right. Emanations from the summonstone are behind much of the trouble in the world — preparing it for the coming of the blackest enemy Santhenar has ever faced.
In ages past, Stermin, the fanatical and righteous leader of a powerful race, committed a monstrous folly — he sorted his people into worthy and unworthy, via the Gates of Good and Evil. The folk who emerged from the Blue Gate were called Charon, and he embraced them, but all those who came out through the Crimson Gate were stigmatised as Merdrun (evil) and Stermin cast them into the savage and pitiless void with no hope of return. The outraged Merdrun have waged war against the Charon ever since, bringing them to the brink of extinction.
Now the Merdrun ache to escape their soul-crushing exile in the void, and there's no greater prize than the beautiful world of Santhenar. But it's very difficult to break through the barrier that seals the real worlds off from the void.
For thousands of years they have been working on a plan to take Santhenar. Long ago they cut a summonstone from the Crimson Gate and slipped it into Santhenar through a tiny flaw in the barrier. The summonstone's emanations were designed to send people off the rails, create chaos, provide intelligence, prepare the land for the coming of the Merdrun and, once the stone has absorbed enough power, open a path into Santhenar. At long last their plan is coming to completion and if there's any place for humanity in a Santhenar overrun by Merdrun, it's only as slaves.
Humanity's only hope is the fabled Secret of Mancery. The incomparable magis, Mendark, was the one person who came close to understanding where magical power really came from, and how to use it properly. In the last half century of his long life he sought a way to master mancery, and may have done so, but Mendark burned his library before he died and all his work was believed to have been lost …
Cumulus Unick, the aesthete and collector behind the Anarchy, is about to discover otherwise. He loves the Great Tales and wants to collect the original manuscripts of all 24, including Llian's Tale of the Mirror. As he attempts to, Unick makes an incredible discovery. Llian worked with Mendark before his death and Llian's incredible memory — what he knows that he doesn't know — could allow Mendark's great work to be reconstructed, and completed.
The allies need the secret badly; it's their only hope of overcoming the Anarchy. But Llian has disappeared.
Cumulus Unick wants it too — the Secret of Mancery will give him the power to collect all the Great Tales and make his library the best in the land. And in Llian's desperation to revive his ruined career, he will be easy prey. Unick abducts Llian and forces him to tell all he knows.
As he does so, Llian begins to uncover the sickening treachery at the heart of Mendark's work — the betrayal of Santhenar itself. He escapes and, with the aid of a small band of comrades, sets out on a journey of discovery across Meldorin and finally to the forbidden Charon city of Alcifer, where he will face the most desperate conflict of his life and uncover a secret so powerful and terrible that it will shake the world.
But will the tale save Llian's career, or destroy it?
And can the secret be enough to save Santhenar from the Merdrun … or will it deliver the world into their hands?