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The poisonous magic that began its insidious attack on the kingdom of Neroche in Star of the Morning, the first book in Kurland's "Nine Kingdoms" trilogy, is growing stronger. Shieldmaiden Morgan of Melksham struggles to recover from a near miss with death and come to terms with her unexpected-and unwanted-magical heritage, and Archmage Miach of Neroche is hard-pressed to keep the evil at bay long enough to find its source and the means to destroy it. Powerful magic, ancient spells, old enmities, and dangerous secrets underpin the intricate plot of this engrossing, lyrically descriptive tale that contrasts hideous evil with tender, heart-wrenching love, tempers it with gentle humor, and serves it up with an adventurous flair. Although Miach and Morgan make progress in their quest to dispel the evil, it is the depth of their love-the romantic scenes are magical-that is the highlight of this exceptionally well-done novel. However, as part of a series and with too many threads left unresolved, the story might disappoint some readers who would prefer that it stand on its own. Kurland is a multipublished author in various romance subgenres.