Of Limited Loyalty, the sequel to At the Queen's Command.
In an alternate history, where magick exists, the colonies of Mystria have a new threat within them. Ian Rathfield has been sent by the Queen to investigate the rumors that a group of colonists have left the Crown's territories and have created a settlement called Postsylvania. Rathfield's job is to bring those errant colonists to heel. Prince Vlad, the Governor-General of the Mystrian colonies, sends Owen Strake, Nathaniel Woods, and Kamiskwa with Rathfield to guide him.
Things go off the rails for the expedition for several reasons. First of all, the Postsylvania colony is using forbidden magick, making them heretics. Not only that, but apparently the folks of Postsylvania have awoken an ancient threat, one that will not tolerate the Mystrian colonies.
But it's not just the threat to the west that has our heroes worried. Prince Vlad is being put under pressure by the grasping Bishop Bumble, who suspects the prince of meddling in forbidden powers. And Owen Strake is having trouble with his wife, Catherine, who doesn't want to live in the colonies but would rather be home in Norisle.
All of this pales, though, when that ancient evil stirs and threatens to destroy everything.
I really enjoyed this book. Stackpole's alternate version of the American colonies is really cool. When I read the first book, I wished that Stackpole would explore the relationship between magick users and the Church a bit more and I got what I asked for. There's an intriguing conspiracy brewing in this world that I can't wait to see more fully developed in the next book.
My only gripe (if you can call it that) is the almost anticlimactic nature of the final confrontation with the aforementioned ancient evil. I suspected that they would be the main baddies, so to speak, for this story and that they would become a permanent part of the story. But it doesn't feel like that at the end. I could be wrong, and I'm really not complaining. This was a good read and a lot of fun.
But I do have to say that I feel sorry for Owen Strake. I'm really hoping things get resolved for him soon.