Prince Aleksander is the heir to the Derzhi Empire and is a spoiled brat with no sense of the consequences of his endlessly rash actions. When Seyonne, whom he has whimsically bought as a secretary, realises that the obnoxious youth is in danger from demonic sorcerers, he has no option for self-preservation but to save the prince from them. Then he realises that Aleksander, by this point disgraced, on the run and cursed with shape-changing, has the spark of mystical goodness in him that his own people have been searching for for generations.
Berg has created a world in which there are several sorts of magic that hardly overlap, and whose local bigotries --Seyonne, once a leader of his people, has been dishonoured forever by capture--are credibly unpleasant. This is an evocative, passionate sword-and-sorcery thriller with some vivid characters and set piece scenes; Aleksander is a fascinating creation, with the stuff of greatness in him but on the brink of corruption.--Roz Kaveney