She remembered how it felt to lose Salma, first to the wiles of the Butterfly-kinden girl, then to hear the news of his death, abandoned and alone in the midst of the enemy.
All is in turmoil as the world moves towards war. In Solarno, the spies watch each other and ready their knives, while Myna sees the troops muster at its border and emotions run high as it vows never to be enslaved again. In Collegium, the students argue politics, too late to turn the tide.
The city states of the Lowlands have lived in peace for decades, bastions of civilization, prosperity and sophistication. They have been protected by treaties, trade and a belief in the reasonable nature of their neighbours.
The armies of the Wasp Empire are on the march, and first to feel their might will be the city of Tark – even now preparing for siege. Within its walls Salma and Totho must weather the storm, as the Ant-kinden prepare to stand against numbers and weaponry such as the Lowlands have never seen.
Driven by the ghosts of the Darakyon, the seer Achaeos has tracked the stolen Shadow Box to the marsh-town of Jerez – but he has only days before this magical artefact is lost to him forever.
The vampiric sorcerer Uctebri has at last got his hands on the Shadow Box and can finally begin his dark ritual - a ritual that the Wasp-kinden Emperor believes will grant him immortality. But Uctebri has his own plans both for the Emperor and the Empire.
The war with the Wasp Empire has ended in a bitter stalemate, and Collegium has nothing to show for it but wounded veterans. Cheerwell Maker finds herself crippled in ways no doctor can mend, haunted by ghosts of the past that she cannot appease, seeking for meaning in a city that no longer seems like home.
BOOK SIX: SHADOWS OF THE APT