THE EMPEROR of Bura appoints a new governor to rule over its small neighbour Liria. En route, the Governor dies of a mysterious poison ... and his wife, Kurova Grax takes over, swearing vengeance.

However, the Lirian resistance suspects her motives, as she starts to install her own sons and daughters into key strongholds ...

Gorach: a mountain sanctuary, seized by Skaliari, Kurova Grax’s eldest son, a cruel and dull-witted bully. His pet 'Chiki' is a vicious mongoose, and he takes delight in shooting arrows at tethered prey.

Morenija: a walled city on a tiny peninsular island, acquired by Boko, another son, a plump but vicious type, rather too fond of pudding, and his pet electric eel, a terrifying creature that keeps the local people in check.

Bijelo-Vadek: a nomad settlement, stranded in the mountains by Kurva Grax’s regular army under General Vrast. Grax’s eldest daughter, Rugana, a wily avoider of trouble, who plans to decamp, with her collection of jewelled beetles, all still alive, that she wears on her collar.

Suma Luka: a township created out of mysterious trees which flourish in the shallow waters of an inland lake. Kurva Grax’s toxic daughter Otrovia, a mistress of the arts of poison, keeps the mild inhabitants at bay, threatening them with exposure to her tank of lethal scorpions.

Ngosc: ‘the city of shades’, a deep labyrinth filled with wandering spirits and deadly lantern moths. It is located beneath the hidden palace, the former home of Lirian royalty. Above is the hidden palace, occupied by the precocious Danitza, Grax’s youngest daughter, who keeps pets of a very different kind.

Torana: the old capital of Liria. Its six-towered ramparts surround the city, now in the cruel grip of the power-crazed Kurova Grax, widow of the old Governor, who died in mysterious circumstances.