An act of mercy returns to haunt Theo. Should he have saved the life of Cabbarus, the man who tried to steal the throne once before to suit his own evil gains? Was it mercy—or foolishness?
Theo has little time to wonder before Westmark is plunged into war. This time, Cabbarus has an army behind him, and when the capital city of Marinstat falls to Cabbarus’ new directorate, Theo and his friends scramble to organize a resistance.
But some in the resistance have ideas of their own. Florian asks Theo to do what Theo has sworn never to do again.
For Theo, the adventure begins when he gets shot. Fortunately for him, he attracts not only assassins but friends, and, after the latter rescues Theo from the former, the young Prince Consort sets out to discover who would want him dead. Trouble is brewing, and Theo can smell it—trouble not only for himself, but also for the entire kingdom. Mickle, the Beggar Queen, senses the trouble as well, and when she determines to seek it out, she finds herself right in the middle of it. Surprised by an attack from the neighboring country of Regia, and undermined by a treacherous plot from inside Westmark itself, the nation of Westmark scrambles to defend its borders.
Theo is a printer’s devil. At least, he was, until the printing of an unauthorized pamphlet attracted the attention of the law of Westmark. Now a fugitive, Theo finds unlikely companions in Las Bombas, a quack doctor; Musket, a short-tempered dwarf; and Mickle, a skinny orphan girl who swaggers by day and weeps by night.
While Theo adjusts to life on the run, Westmark teeters on the brink of ruin. King Augustine, crippled with grief at the loss of his daughter, has left the reign of the kingdom to Chief Minister Cabbaras, whose tightening grip on the nation has sparked the seeds of rebellion.
The rebel leader, Florian, is a puzzle to Theo. Why does Theo hesitate to endorse Florian’s politics, yet desperately crave Florian’s approval? Should Theo uphold the monarchy or follow Florian? Could Theo make either choice—and still keep his honor?