In a world very much like our own Victorian England, the country of Dalanine is at war. The implacable, unstoppable Despot has been pushing northward for over a year, conquering everything in his path with military and magical force, leaving nothing but destruction in his wake.
For Evon Lorantis, Dalanine's most promising young magician, the war represents the same kind of work he's always done, inventing and developing new spells for his country's defense. But as good as he is, he's still stumped by the mystery the government's department of Home Defense brings him: a rash of spontaneously occurring fires, hotter than any natural force can produce, melting stone and vaporizing flesh wherever they strike. Home Defense believes it's a weapon that will finally defeat the Despot. And they want Evon to harness it.
In investigating the problem, Evon discovers these fires are no accident; there's a magician behind them, a woman using the fire to prosecute justice on her own terms. Evon sets off on a journey across Dalanine to track down this rogue magician, hoping to persuade her to turn aside from her vigilante crusade to serve her country, afraid of finding only a madwoman at the end of his quest. But the woman he does find is nothing like he expected, the mystery far greaterand olderthan he'd imagined, and the secret of the fire more potent than anyone could have guessed.
As Evon attempts to untangle fact from myth, what began as an assignment becomes a challenge that will require every ounce of magical ability he hasand will irrevocably change the course of his life.