To make matters more complicated, Ikhsior receives a fantastic device that allows one to see things that are far away. The gifting song is vague as to the intent behind the gifting. When Ikhsior tries to return the favor with his own gift, it results in everyone concluding that Ikhsior is courting the eplikili Pesodi. Ikhsior can't correct this misunderstanding without hurting both of their reputations, which is a problem because Ikhsior is falling for Pesodi's cousin Bazomi.
There are seemingly no end to Ikhsior's problems. In addition to his romantic woes he has to traverse the social maneuvering of his fellow nobles, prepare songs to sing for every occasion, and deal with servants that refuse to give a straight answer. No servant would ever diminish his Lord by admitting that were ever anything less than eminent, including his scribe Deule, the narrator of the book.
The book also has a sequel of sorts in the form of Pavane In Pearl And Emerald, another book set at the Coral Palace, but a couple hundred years in the future.
This novel contains examples of
- Appropriated Appellation: Nemdimhe is warned that showing an especial interest in the trade agreements could get him branded as The Farmer. Nemdimhe decides to embrace the image since it can't be a shame if it's what he wants.
- As You Know: Deule says this a lot, but it's a subversion because Ikhsior actually doesn't know the things that Deule claims he does.
- The Astrologer: Fatoalo is acting as the Court Astrologer. However, in this setting astrologers and astronomers are the same, and Fatoalo really likes to borrow Ikhsior's telescope so that he can study the phases of the moons better.
- Birds of a Feather: Ikhsior and Bazomi both preferred life away from the palace, which causes them to bond with each other.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": The 'naglagati' is never referred to as a telescope. Subverted with the pisoai, which are described as giant fish that sing with beautiful voices and sometimes jump out of the water. They are not whales.
- Cassandra Truth: Ikhsior tells Lare that he doesn't want to marry Pesodi, but has been ordered by the emperor to do so, and if Lare wants to marry her, he needs to propose first. Lare concludes that Ikhsior is trying to trick him into making a rushed proposal.
- Fictional Zodiac: Not only are the constellations different from Earth, but there are multiple moons that make the local horoscope system more complicated.
- Final Love Duet: The last song in the book is a duet between Ikhsior and Bazomi. Bazomi's part is unrehearsed, so Ikhsior's part of the song had to tell her what to sing.
- First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Ikhsior is the main character, but it's his scribe, Deule, that narrates the story.
- Fish out of Water: Ikhsior at the Coral Palace.
- Gilded Cage: Since being away from the palace is seen as a sign of displeasure from the emperor, Ikhsior is stuck at the Coral Palace in order to not diminish his family. Bazomi is also unhappy being trapped at the palace, and at one point sings a song likening herself to a bird in a cage.
- "I Am" Song: One of the types of songs courtiers are expected to sing are songs to announce themselves when they go visiting other courtiers. These songs often say something about the singer.
- I Gave My Word: Nun'ghi promised Bazomi's father to protect his family in repayment of being rescued from a flood, and so he follow Bazomi around even though magic is outlawed.
- Insecure Love Interest: Isde Lare may be an eplakil, but as a lord without land he feels that he must do something to make himself more eminent before pursuing Isde Pesodi.
- Musicalis Interruptus: When Ikhsior first performs his proper thank-you song for the naglagati, it gets interrupted by a keka dropping from the ceiling and escaping.
- Musical World Hypothesis: Alternate Universe / Diegetic. The current fashion of the Coral Palace for everyone to sing about everything.
- Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Ikhsior is the rich suitor. In a variation, Ikhsior is only courting Pesodi for appearances sake, and spends most of his time trying to get Pesodi together with her poorer love interest.
- Shipper with an Agenda: Ikhsior wants Lare to marry Pesodi, so that he can avoid marrying her himself without anyone losing face.
- The Spock: Nun'ghi is ver logical, and can invent a variety of useful devices that have no artistic value because he doesn't get art. He would like to get and is excited by the idea of meeting someone who can explain art.
- The Storyteller: Bazomi is talented at telling shadow plays, and her ability to carry a narrative is noted as the strong point of her musical performances.
- Thought-Aversion Failure: Lare gets everyone to think of Ikhsior as a barbarian by assuring everyone that he isn't one, no matter how much he appears to match the role.
- Unexpected Successor: Ikhsior wasn't that far down the line, but he was not prepared for court life since his cousin was expected to inherent after his uncle.
- Unreliable Narrator: As a palace servant will never admit to their lord being anything less than high, Deule regularly informs the reader about all the things that were most certainly not said.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Subverted with the plan to get Lare to move his concert to an earlier date and propose to Pesodi by appointing him to ambassador. It's discussed to the audience and it still works.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Nun'ghi is afraid of water because as a rock keka he'd sink and be trapped under the water until it wears him down into sand, which causes trouble when he's trapped on a boat.