In this second installment of Modesitt's serpentine political fantasy series (following 2008's Imager), the imager Rhennthyl has been made a Maitre D'Aspect and Liaison to the Civic Patrol of L'Excelsis. As a covert security operative, Rhennthyl must ferret out corruption. He expects guidance from the Collegium, but the more involved he becomes in the patrol, the more the masters distance themselves. When Rhennthyl makes enemies of one of the high holder families, the Collegium's refusal to become involved leaves him no options but to take matters into his own hands. Though the story drags occasionally as Rhennthyl ponders every aspect of his predicament and the Masters give constant professorial lectures, Modesitt's steady prose guides Rhennthyl and the reader through the hierarchical foot-dragging and feudal power-mongering.