Orb is a singer in a travelling show, seeking the Llano, a mythical song with tremendous power. She has the most beautiful voice that Mym has ever heard. On the run from his royal family, a stuttering second son, Mym hides in the open pretending to be mute and working as a juggler. When accosted by thuggees during a shopping trip, Mym binds Orb’s eyes and deliberately induces a berserker rage, slaughtering the would-be killers, for though a second son, he has been raised with all the skills required of a leader. He and Orb fall in love, and she teaches him how he can overcome his disability by singing. They are blissfully happy until the show is intercepted by emissaries from Mym’s father – his older brother, the heir, has been killed and Mym must now assume the crown.
Enraged, Mym bites his tongue to trigger his berserker rage, but is stopped by the intercession of Orb, who realises that he must leave and fulfil his duties. With a sad heart, Mym acquiesces, and returns to the palace. The king begins to send Mym consorts, who Mym refuses– his love for Orb persists despite their separation. That is until his father begins killing the women, impaling their severed heads on spikes outside the palace.
Resigned, Mym agrees to meet a princess from a neighbouring kingdom, Rapture of Malachite, and they stay in an enchanted castle for a fortnight. In the castle their thoughts can be heard, and the enforced intimacy results in a deep and abiding love. Their engagement is announced, their wedding plans underway, until a more advantageous coupling arises, and the king nullifies the engagement. In love, in protest, and with no other option, Mym assumes the role of the Incarnation of War, substituting trusting servants to act as himself and Rapture.
The conflict between duty and desire is beautifully portrayed in this fourth depiction of an Incarnation, and it was refreshing to have a non-Western protagonist – this novel opens the way for other faiths having other Incarnations and afterlives in a very interesting and thought provoking way. Two common threads of the series continue in this chapter – Sning, the snake ring given to Thanatos by Luna in the first book, and worn by Chronos in the second book, appears here also, and the role of Luna is further clarified, though she plays only a minor role here. – Alex