First book in the Rogues of the Republic series.
Loch, former Republic scout, has returned to the capital city to steal back what is rightfully hers and cast down the usurper who murdered her family.
Her first attempt immediately lands her in prison. For the second try, she decides to gather a crew of rogues, anyone with any competence at all who is willing to help. She has her foul-mouthed second in command Kail, a love-priestess turned death priestess named Desidora, Desidora's talking warhammer Ghylspwr, Tern the safecracker and alchemist, Icy the Imperial monk and contortionist, the disgraced illusionist Hessler, the suspiciously lucky simple farm boy named Dairy, and the shapeshifting unicorn Ululenia.
Along the way, she has to fight off politics, assassins, police, and a demonic foe from beyond the world itself. All in a day's work.
This novel provides examples of:
- Black Widow: Loch's sister isn't actually interested in Icy, she's working with Silestin and was using him for information. She was ready to kill him once she got what she needed, but Loch intervened.
- Chekhov's Gun: At the beginning, Loch refuses to speak while she's in the Cleaners, supposedly because of an ancient superstition that the stones steal the souls of those who speak too close to them. It turns out that yes, they do, Silestin has a magical artifact that gives him control over those souls, and Kail talked around them plenty. You can say Oh, Crap! now.
- The Chosen One: Dairy is really strong, really lucky, and has an interesting birthmark that's either shaped like a sword or a big bird. He's the Champion of Dawn, destined to fight the Champion of Dusk.
- Engineered Public Confession: In the end Pyvic turns to Loch's side, and helpfully brings along two high-ranking voyants in disguise to hear Silestin's highly-informative gloating.
- Evil Empire: The Empire, supposedly, but it seems to be mostly Republic propaganda. Icy Fist muses while listening to one of Silestin's speeches that actually, the Republic started the war the two sides are still smarting over.
- HeelFace Turn: In the end, Naria turns on Silestin, after discovering that he set up her sister to die and had her parents murdered.
- Also, Pyvic, after Loch repeatedly encourages him to look into things himself and not simply accept what Silestin says.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Near the climax of the book, the palace guard are closing in on Hessler and Dairy. Hessler tells Dairy that he needs to run as fast as he can, and Hessler will leave an illusion of himself behind and join him while invisible, and everything will be just fine. Luckily, Pyvic has already turned on Silestin, and only knocks him out, which a shaken Ululenia mistakes for death.
- Hypocrite: Silestin claims that the Urujar people are lazy and always blame everyone else whenever anything goes wrong. He says that Loch blaming him for her troubles is a clear example. Except that Loch is blaming him because he sent her to die in a foreign country, labeled her a traitor, and killed her entire family. Somehow this has nothing to do with him.
- I Banged Your Mom: Kail really likes using this line to make his enemies do something stupid.
- When Kail meets two warriors of a Precursor race that has been dead for thousands of years, he reveals that he knows just enough of the language to say something that really pisses them off. This gets a little awkward when it turns out they don't have to fight after all, and he has to make a hasty apology.Kail: My mistake. I'm sure she was a lovely woman.
- Dairy, of all people, uses a line like this to piss off Bi'ul at a critical moment to defeat him and save the world. Afterwards, he admits he has no idea what it meant, and he was just repeating something he heard Kail say in a tavern brawl.
- When Kail meets two warriors of a Precursor race that has been dead for thousands of years, he reveals that he knows just enough of the language to say something that really pisses them off. This gets a little awkward when it turns out they don't have to fight after all, and he has to make a hasty apology.
- Loophole Abuse: Icy has taken a vow of nonviolence, meaning he will not harm a living thing. However, at a crucial moment he decides that sentient monster-hunting golems don't count as living things, and saves the rest of the team.
- Never My Fault: Silestin says that he saved Loch's sister from poverty and worse. He completely skips over the fact that he's the one who killed the rest of her family and stole their lands.
- Obfuscating Disability: Loch's sister is genuinely blind, but the "decorative" band of crystal on her eyes is actually a magical item that projects illusions into her mind to let her see. It also lets her turn invisible, which helps in her role as Silestin's First Blade. She spends most of the book a few moves behind Loch, killing anyone she spoke to.
- Prophecy Armor: Turns out, Loch knew all along that Dairy was the Chosen One, and, figuring nothing could happen to him until he actually fought the Champion of Dusk, let him come along in the hopes his must-meet-destiny field would rub off on everyone else. Which it does.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Practically everyone loves Silestin. He donates to schools! He adopted an Urujar orphan! He wants to protect the Republic from the Evil Empire! The puppet shows that stand in for the news tend to reflect this.