First book in The Vagrant Trilogy.
The world has been transformed, ripped apart by infernal forces that invaded from the Breach. Hundreds of thousands fought to contain the initial invasion, but failed. The entire army was lost, including Gamma, one of the Seven immortal rulers of the world. Her corpse was fought over by the greatest of the infernals, eventually claimed by the Usurper.
Now, the infernal taint spreads across the land, heralded by half-breeds (transformed humans), full infernals, and the half-alive of the Uncivil. There is nothing left but the corrupted ruins of a better world, precious technology mixed with unholy necrotech and infernal essence.
Through it all, a lone man carries a strange sword and an untainted baby to an unknown destination.
This novel provides examples of:
- Badass and Child Duo: The Vagrant carries a baby along with him during his quest, they're later joined by a goat.
- Broken Pedestal: The Vagrant's loyalty to the Empire and the Seven plummet, when he sees that the remaining Six have retreated completely into themselves and won't do a thing to help the areas under Infernal control.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Once the commander remembers his past as a commander of the Seraph Knights, he walks right into the lairs of the Uncivil and then the Usurper, delivering Gamma's last message, which kills both the Uncivil and the Usurper with ease.
- Drama-Preserving Handicap: Singing Swords like the one the Vagrant uses are extremely powerful weapons, especially against infernals. But to use its full power you have to sing with it, and the Vagrant is mute. It turns out the reason he is mute is that when he tried to sing with Gamma's blade, its power proved too much for him and struck him dumb.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: Played with. The Vagrant isn't actually a knight, he's in fact a knight's apprentice who was in a village near the breach. The Vagrant did almost complete his training and just hadn't been officially recognized.
- Handicapped Badass: The Vagrant is mute which does prove frustrating when he has to deal with people and it means he can't use Gamma's sword to its fullest.
- Sir Phia is a Seraph Knight who hates people defying orders. She defies orders herself and risks the mission in order to rescue her lover, then abandons the Vagrant when he won't leave innocents behind. When they meet up again, she blames him for everything.
- The people of the Six Circles teach their children to hate and fear anything with even the slightest infernal taint, and threaten anyone they don't like with a witch hunt to find evidence of the taint. But when the First arrives and offers to give them all a small amount of taint that will make them stronger and healthier, the people turn on the guards and accept the gift greedily.
- Orcus on His Throne: Heroic version. After Gamma fell, the remaining members of the Seven retreated to the Shining City to mourn, leaving the infernals to rampage unchecked across the land. If they banded together and fought back, they could drive them off easily. Even mostly dead, Gamma manages to kill the Uncivil and the Usurper with the tiniest remnant of her power left behind in her corrupted Knight-Commander.
- Romantic Runner-Up: The Vagrant is this to his friend for the baby Vesper's mother.