For those unfamiliar with the series, it is told in a nonlinear, braided style, alternating between the 'present day' with Jill and Rhodry, and various narrative threads in the past. Characters who fail to learn lessons in a current life are reborn to work through their problems until the souls involved finally get it *right* - so characters can die, and tragically, and only the magicians of the dweomer know that it ends nothing and solves nothing.
This volume picks up the thread of the Time of Troubles where _The Bristling Wood_ left off, and is continued in _The Red Wyvern_. In the present day, picking up a thread from _The Dragon Revenant_, Salamander has turned his talent for dweomer into a living as a stage magician in the Bardek archipelago; as a half-elf, he has a life long enough to search for the soul of his beloved wife, dead untimely of fever, until he finds her reincarnation. Alas, the dweomer can't just be turned on and off like a lightswitch, and he'll pay for his abandonment of his true calling someday if he doesn't look out.
In the time of troubles, Maryn, the young Marked Prince of Pyrdon, is being groomed by Nevyn as the high king who can bring the wars to a halt, since he has close blood ties to all the contending claims for the throne, except Cerrmor - and since Cerrmor's heir is Princess Bellyra, an unmarried girl of Maryn's own age, that's not a problem. Cerrmor is in dire straits, and will welcome Maryn as a suitor for Bellyra with open arms - if he can get there alive. (Bellyra, for her part, is intelligent enough to realize that he'll never love her; she's just what he needs for the kingdom's sovereignty, and maybe a friend and ally, but no more.)
Some followers of the dark dweomer attempted to work magic against Maryn by creating a curse tablet. Nevyn has managed to get hold of it, but daren't destroy it, discard it, or be caught with it while trying to unravel the spells on it without harming Maryn. (This thread eventually doubles back on itself, in Kerr's nonlinear, braided storytelling style, giving him the idea for creating the Great Stone of the West (the opposite of the curse tablet) which we saw back in volume 2, _Darkspell_.)
Be warned, the dark dweomer workers did something VILE to enchant the tablet - Nevyn finds the evidence with the tablet. Grisly. Also, while Maryn has been groomed to be a warrior's ideal of a king, he's not a saint (the silver daggers when in transit introduce him to a brothel, which actually turns into a hilarious if bawdy scene through no fault of Maryn's).
Bellyra, for her part, is not only intelligent, but unusually well-educated and intellectual, and will grow into a formidable political force if she survives the siege of Cerrmor. Like Maryn, she is one of the recurring characters being reincarnated at different stages in the history of the series. One of her incarnations appears in _A Time of Exile_, while both she and Maryn have been reborn late in the 'present' day.