So, after a few unexpected adventures in plumbing this week, I did managed to finish Kelly McCullogh's Blade Reforged, part of the continuing adventures of Aral Kingslayer.
We start this book with Aral trying to spring an old friend from King Thauvik's (son of King Ashvik, who died to give Aral the title Kingslayer) torture prison. After finding the task nigh impossible, Aral instead helps set up Baroness Maylien (also his part time lover, and the one who got the plot rolling back in Book 1) to take the throne.
Complicating this is a Blade legend, the Kitsune, and the return of former Blade turned servant of the bad church, Devin. The Kitsune would be a Blade long thought dead, who entered dead Namara's service long before Aral was born, supposedly killed by teacher Kelos. Surprise! Nuriko is still alive and still accompanied by her many tailed fox shade familiar! And she's also sort of in league with Son of Shan, in a less restricted manner than Kelos, who was already sort of a free agent in service to the Son. Devin, on the other hand...
Well, Devin again ends up making a deal with Aral, who, despite their complete hatred of each other, is being more tormented by Nuriko than Aral could ever attempt to accomplish. Also, if Aral is able get rid of the Kitsune, the Son's torments of Devin are likely to be lesser than if her plot manages to go forward. (As we have been learning through the series in dribs and drabs, the Son is not a nice person. That his form of discipline involves God enforced oaths, tattoos and then flaying skin to remove said tattoos to preserve in an art gallery should not exactly be a surprise.)
Devin, unsurprisingly, doesn't want Thauvik dead, mainly because the King is more or less under the thumb of the Son. However, with Nuriko warping the Son's goals....
Oh yeah, and Maylien starts a revolution to take the throne after Thauvik kills off half the nobility to prevent Maylien's legal adoption (and therefore legitimate claim of succession) becoming public knowledge. Which leads to a few new characters, including Prixia, who becomes Maylien's general after her father gets killed and declared a traitor in the adoption fiasco. Captain Fei again provides fascinating background information about what's going on in the figurative shadows.
Oh yes, and Aral has finally achieved some measure of sobriety, which cuts down the passages devoted to self-incrimination over drinking quite a bit. (I'm not knocking addiction recovery at all here. Aral's sobriety is long coming, and it's good to see him accomplishing it one day at a time.)
The events following the climax provide quite a preview of things to come, as well as providing a literal interpretation of both the first book's title and the current book's title.
I'll be very interested in seeing how the series progresses from here.