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Though billed as the closer to a trilogy (following 2007's The Sea Change), this low-key climax to the chronicles of scholarly monk Josan and reluctant Ikarian Emperor Lucius stands surprisingly well on its own. Their souls trapped together in Lucius' failing body, they must risk a much-interrupted sea voyage in search of sorcery capable of freeing at least one of the pair. Meanwhile, plotters within and beyond Ikaria threaten both the succession and the empire. Bray's quasi-Mediterranean setting is ably if lightly sketched, and even the most ambitious of Lucius' onstage adversaries are genuinely likable. The novel's most fantastical element is its refreshingly sincere political climate; by contrast, there's little physical action or deeply rooted conflict, and at least one unseen enemy remains at book's end. At the same time, the diplomatic intrigues often sidetrack the plot rather than furthering character development, rendering the finale abrupt and intrusive. Flaws notwithstanding, amiable storytelling and brisk pacing make this an agreeable summer read. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.