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Complicated politics and family scandals twist through this tale of courtly intrigue from prolific fantasist Duncan (Children of Chaos). Rape and murder are almost unheard of in Aureity, where the female nobility cross bloodlines for strength: men's physical, women's mental. Aging gladiator Mudar of Quoin, shamed by the death of Mandragora, the woman he served, hunts for her killer. As he learns that his own father, Piese, slew Mandragora after she recognized him as a rapist, he schemes to arrange a fight with his half-brother, Humate, in psychic arena games. Mudar must convince Humate of their father's guilt, bring Piese to justice and reclaim his name, rank and lands before Humate can marry Mudar's beloved Tendence. Though made fresh by matter-of-fact female supremacy and its midlife hero's view of youthful warrior culture, the culture's obsession with degrees of caste and the absence of commoners may leave readers wishing for a more revolutionary resolution. (Aug.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.