Ten years have passed since the end of the second book and Phedre has settled into a nice life with her consort Joscelin. She still takes on clients as an anguisette but now only three per year. Life is good. The only thing that still haunts her is the fate of her childhood friend, Hyacinth, who had sacrificed himself back in the first book to suffer the curse of being a perpetual apprentice to the Master of the Straits. Now when Phedre's nemesis, the beautiful Melisande contacts Phedre and begs her to go in search of her kidnapped son, Phedre makes a deal with her that will ultimately culminate in Hyacinth's release.
As in the previous novels in the trilogy, the tapestry of this world is vast and detailed. Essentially, it is an alternate Earth and we travel along with Phedra and her company of escorts, guardsmen, etc. from Europe to the Middle East and to northern and central Africa. Most of the place names are similar to ours so it is possible to decipher where they are going but I was very happy to have the map at the front of the book to refer to. Also, there are lots and lots of characters so the list of their names and relationships was welcome. This book is not for those easily offended by erotic scenes as there are several in here, one in particular which is extremely graphic but also very necessary to the plot. The protagonist, afterall, is bound by her gods to experience both pain and pleasure as a courtesan so that sort of thing does come up in the plot. Taken as a trilogy, this is a vast epic fantasy that is very enjoyable to read. I felt there were a few spots with too much description of scenery and a few too many stops along her journey that didn't seem to have much bearing on the plot. A little too long but enjoyable none-the-less. I plan to read the follow-on trilogy which focuses on the boy that had been kidnapped, and his life...but these books are so long that I will wait a while before beginning that series.
I was also able to complete another short story in the Louis L'Amour collection, The Strong Shall Live. "Hattan's Castle" was a bit different from what I'm used to but still quite enjoyable. It's told like a campfire story, lots of description about what happened but not much actual dialogue. It's the old story about a town in the Old West run by a bully that suddenly has to deal with a new man that challenges his leadership. There is an unexpected twist involved that makes this a cute tale but I won't spoil it for you. I continue to really like this collection.
Next up: Black Rain, a thriller novel by Graham Brown, part of the "Vine" program that allows me to read as-yet-unpublished bookss. This one will be published in January, 2010.