Kingdoms of Dust is the third entry in the The Necromancer Chronicles, though the books are reasonably stand-alone. It's a Low Fantasy novel in an Arabian-inspired setting, taking place six-months after the previous one.
With her master dead and her oaths foresworn, necromancer and spy Isyllt Iskaldur finds herself in exile. Hounded by assassins, she seeks asylum in Assar, the empire she so recently worked to undermine.
Warlords threaten the empire's fragile peace, and the empress is beset by enemies within the court. Even worse, darkness stirs in the deep desert. Ancient spirits long held captive are waking - spirits that can destroy Assar faster than any army.
Accompanied by an outcast jinn, Isyllt must travel into the heart of the desert to lay the darkness there to rest once more. But her sympathies are torn between the captive spirits and the order of mages sworn to bind them. And whichever choice she makes could raze the empire to dust.
This book provides examples of:
- The Alcatraz: The Ciragan Serai. Men who go here are mourned for dead or forgotten, and there had never been a break-out. Isyllt goes there and buys Adam's freedom after he had been there for a year, due to the side he was a mercenary for losing a skirmish.
- Becoming the Mask: The closest Melantha fell into a role was during her time with Adam as Brenna.
- Bi the Way: Asheris, who flirts with both Isyllt and Siddir alike.
- Bittersweet Ending: By the end, Nerium is dead, Moth has decided to stay with Melantha(who regained her real name of Talia), and Isyllt has broken her oaths again and throws away her ring, abandoning her magic.
- The Bus Came Back: Adam and Asheris from The Drowning City and Dahlia from The Bone Palace, going by the name of Moth.
- Casting a Shadow: Skiamancy and Skiagraphy, viewing through shadows and casting them into illusions. She can also bring them to life to strangle people.
- Cold Iron: Lead weakens magic when kept around a mage, in contrast to silver and copper.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Adam was given up by his mother as a child, raised by a caravan that was attacked when he was around twelve, and almost sold into slavery before he escaped. After that he became a mercenary and lost the people close to him one after another.
- DecemberDecember Romance: Nerium and Kihil were 60 and 40 respectively when they were in a relationship 40 years ago.
- Eldritch Abomination: According to Asheris, the Al-Joda'im came from a meteor that was called down and began devouring spirits and humans alike. That's because it's pure entropy and can't help it. All it wants is to go home.
- Entropy and Chaos Magic: Magic meant to decay and ruin. Al-Joda'im are hinted to be the source of it all, as it is made of entropy, and because Isyllt is an user of it she can send them home with it.
- The Exile: Isyllt voluntarily went into exile for failing to save her master and king, which also weakened her magic.
- Femme Fatale: Melantha played this role while acting as a mercenary with Adam, to his friend. She used them to get close to the king and then rob the royal treasury.
- Heavy Sleeper: Moth.
- Hostage for MacGuffin: Melantha kidnaps Moth to get Isyllt's compliance. Everyone agrees that it was a bad plan, and one brought about out of desperation since they wanted Isyllt's help willingly.
- Impromptu Tracheotomy: How Melantha kills Corylus, using a barbed and weighted dart made of lead.
- Meaningful Rename: Dahlia changed her name to Moth, after a pimp tried to take her after she left city because the name gave away that she would have been a prostitute if she had been older. Isyllt disemboweled him for the attempt, and she cut her hair to symbolize the death of her previous self.
- Mercy Kill: The assassin who targeted Isyllt ended up being bitten by cobras she reanimated, and the combination of that and the venom left him in so much agony they simply put him out of his misery after he gave them the information they wanted.
- Morphic Resonance: A spirit's guise always has a flaw such as Raisa the Butcher having canines like a dog or jackal, despite her otherwise human appearance.
- Muggle Born of Mages: Those who are Kamnur are born without more than a spark of sensitivity. Khalil and Nerium's child, Melantha, was one but they gave her to the abyss in order to give her the shadow powers she now had.
- Magic Music: Nerium uses one of the Unconquered Sun's church hymns to help seal the Al-Joda'im. There are hundreds of little wards spread across Assar, used to weaken the Fata, weaken the night, and strengthen seals against the darkness.
- Necromancer: The protagonist, Isyllt, is of this profession. She can call, trap, and banish ghosts, reanimate the dead for short periods, experience the final memories of the dead, make inanimate objects age and corrode rapidly, invoke cold, and other related talents. She can also draw power from death and chill.
- The Nose Knows: Adam's sense of smell is good enough he can track people by it.
- Our Genies Are Different: Jinn, in this series, which are immortal spirits. Two in specific:
- Asheris, who was a Jinn bound to a human until they became indistinguishable.
- Kash, who was touched by the Al-Joda'im. This turned his fire to smoke and ash, making him dark bitter and twisted, but it gave him access to the great void and allowed him to use the power for himself.
- Power Incontinence: Asheris nearly burns himself and everything else around him at the tolling of a bell, requiring Isyllt to bind him. It turned out he'd been cursed by Ahmar.
- Religion Is Magic: The Unconquered Sun, whose religious center is in Assar, uses the prayers of the hundreds of thousands of believers and tolling of bells as a means to driving out anything inhuman while preaching human ascendency. Isyllt herself mentions that even her previous home, which had adequate protections, wasn't as secure in terms of spirits and demons.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The Al-Joda'im, sealed away ages ago by the Silent Council. The can leaking is what causes the Ghost Wind.
- Sex for Solace: Isyllt and Adam while on the boat.
- Shadow Walker: Melantha can use her magic to bypass physical objects through shadows, but there is no air and anything she leaves or drops inside the shadows is gone for good. This comes from the fact that, similar to Kash, she was given access to the great void.
- Soul Jar: Ghosts and Spirits can be bound into gems in the series. In this case Ahmar somehow managed to get one that had a Manticore sealed inside of it and gave it to the bandit leader for use in killing or trapping Isyllt.
- Speaks Fluent Animal: The Tier Danaan that live in the forests of Aillerons live and speak with beasts in the way that mages do spirits and ghosts.
- Stealth Expert:Melantha and Corylus can blend into surrounding, with only the shadows giving them away.
- Training from Hell: Melantha was thrown into a well of hungry spirits by her own mother as part of her training and then given to the Abyss. She's more than a little jaded by it.
- The Unfought: Ahmar Asalar, who has sent assassin after assassin for Isyllt and cursed Asheris, is ultimately killed by the Ghost Wind.
- Walking Disaster Area: Corylus points out that everywhere Isyllt goes, the entire city suffers by referencing what happened to Symir in The Drowning City and Erisin from The Bone Palace. It earned her the nickname Stormcrow.
- Weaponized Weakness: Certain metals can hamper magic, like Lead. Melantha uses a dart made of it to kill other mages, like Corylus.
- Wizards Live Longer: Nerium is 102 and managed to get pregnant at 60 due to her magic being catered to healing.