Two hundred years ago, Cassilin, king of fire and son of the great Magravandian house of Malagash conquered Caradore and its guardian family, the Palindrakes. He took their land and crippled their heritage by demanding an oath of perpetual fealty from Valraven, the young heir to the throne. Valraven's mother bid him accept this humiliation willingly such that their association with the power of the Sea Dragons could be hidden until the time was right for its revival to aid them in reclaiming their land and their freedom.
Many generations have passed. Valraven, the current eldest son of the Caradorean family, accepts posting to the Magravandian military, part of his ancestor's oath, but his twin sister Pharinet struggles with the realization that the time is coming to reawaken the magic of their country's connection to the sea and the Sea Dragons.
What a shame! That Storm Constantine can write is beyond dispute. Her descriptive passages are moving and brilliant. Her dialogue is lucid, realistic and fast-paced. The magic or dream sequences are eerie, fascinating and compelling. But, in spite of all that, this novel is as fundamentally flawed as its characters. One and all, they are driven by emotions and traits that are either dark and ugly or weak and pathetic - greed, lust, ambition, hunger for power, ambivalence, amorality or moral turpitude, egocentricity, sycophancy and selfishness. Pharinet, for example, comes to realize that her incestuous love for her twin, Valraven, cannot be continued but at no time expresses even the slightest apology or twinge of regret. Even when these characters appear to display strength or courage or unity of purpose, it is not noble and seems to arise only out of their dark side.
The plot, such as it is, develops slowly but it is masked by deep, impenetrable, swirling layers of foggy mysticism, magic and fantastical writing that make the story line all but inscrutable. At no time does the story aspire to anything uplifting. Unrelenting darkness with no interludes of pleasure or lightness makes this novel depressingly difficult to continue. If this is Gothic fantasy, then I'll give the genre a pass. I'm certainly not inspired to continue with the trilogy or seek out anything else by the same author. I repeat - what a shame!