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Despite two prologues explaining its long and complicated back story, the final volume in the Heartstone epic fantasy saga (following 2007's Mistress of Winter) will baffle anyone unfamiliar with the series. The Ohndarien Empire is threatened by the overwhelming forces of sorceress Issefyn, who has enslaved its inhabitants by infecting them with the magical "black emmeria." Zelani priestess Shara strives to reunite with her soul mate, the former "Sleeping Warden" Brophy, but he has been infected and must fight the evil voice in his head even as he strives to save the world from corruption and find the Heartstone, a magical gem created long ago to contain the psychic illness. This plot-driven tangle puts its surprisingly flat characters through their paces with iron discipline, eventually concluding with plenty of blood and thunder. (Dec.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.