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It should have been an evening of feasting and court merriment. But on the night of the Feast of the Departed, nineteen year-old Prince Martris Drayke's life is changed forever when his half-brother, Jared, kills their father and seizes the throne. Aided by his dark mage, Foor Arontala, Jared murders the royal family--all except Martris, who barely escapes with the help of a handful of friends.
Tris is now an outlaw, hunted by Jared's assassins. As danger and grief push Tris to his limits, he discovers that he is the mage heir of his sorcerer grandmother Bava K'aa, a powerful wizard whose spirit magic made her a Summoner, able to intercede among the living, dead, and undead. In a world where ghosts walk freely and where the undead vayash moru walk the night, this wild and powerful magic may be the advantage Tris needs to win back the throne--if he can keep his newfound power from destroying him first.
Tris flees the palace Shekerishet with three good friends: Carroway, a master bard; Ban Soterius, captain of the king's guard; and Tov Harrtuck, a loyal officer. Desperate to find sanctuary in one of the neighboring kingdoms, the four are pursued by bounty hunters hired by Jared to kill Tris. Harrtuck leads them to Jonmarc Vahanian, a mercenary and smuggler who can guide them through the dangerous mountain passes to reach sanctuary in Principality. Taking cover with a traveling caravan, they meet the healer Carina and her brother Cam, who are on their own quest to find a way to heal King Donelan of Isencroft from a mage-sent illness.
When slavers sent by Jared destroy the caravan seeking Tris and his friends, Cam, Soterius and Harrtuck are presumed dead.Only Tris's half-harnessed power is able to save him in the Ruune Videya forest, where malicious ghosts take their long-overdue revenge. Tris and his friends take with them one of the slaver's captives, a young girl named Berry, who helped them escape. Two of the undead vayash moru, Gabriel and Mikhail, join the group along the way.
On the road, Tris meets Kiara, daughter of King Donelan of Isencroft, who has gone on a dangerous coming-of-age Journey to evade a long-ago arranged betrothal to Jared of Margolan. Kiara believes that Arontala is behind the wasting spell that is killing her father. She pledges herself to Tris's cause. Hounded by the king's troops, Tris and his friends find sanctuary at the legendary Library at Westmarch. The Library is a repository of ancient magical lore run by the eccentric Keeper Royster. At Westmarch, Tris's training begins with the Sisterhood, a reclusive group of powerful sorceresses.
Tris learns from the Sisterhood that Arontala has stolen the orb in which Bava K'aa once trapped the soul of the Obsidian King, a dark and powerful Summoner who nearly destroyed the Winter Kingdoms fifty years ago during the cataclysmic Mage Wars. Arontala plans to free the spirit of the Obsidian King on the night of the summer solstice--the Hawthorn Moon--and permit it to possess him, making that ancient evil incarnate and assuring Jared's power over Margolan and the entire realm of the Winter Kingdoms.
In spite of the danger, Tris and Kiara fall in love. When they leave the safety of Westmarch so that Tris can continue his mage training with the Sisterhood, they are ambushed by Margolan assassins. Fighting their way free from one ambush, they are captured by the guards of King Staden of Principality. Expecting to be sent back to Jared in chains, Tris and the others discover that their capture was Staden's way of bringing them safely to his court, where Soterius and Harrtuck have won the king's support. Berry, Staden's daughter Berwyn, urged her father to support Tris's quest. Now, as the last month of the year approaches, Tris finds himself in exile, struggling to master powerful spirit magic that has the potential to destroy him. Tris must find a way to take back the throne from Jared and defeat Arontala in order to free Margolan and keep the dark magic of the Obsidian King from rising again.