Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis, has been caught spying on the Queen of Attolia. He expects to be hanged, but the Queen instead resorts to an ancient traditional custom– she has his right hand struck off with a sword. This shocking act sets the plot in motion.
Maimed and broken-hearted, the Thief returns to Eddis and wallows in a deep depression. Attolia, an apparently heartless ruler, secretly regrets her action, but must live with the consequences of it. The countries of Eddis and Attolia are soon at war, with neighboring Sounis playing both sides. Also manipulating the situation is Attolia’s ambassador from the Mede Empire, Nahuseresh, who pays extravagant attention to the beautiful Queen of Attolia while serving his own agenda. As Attolia juggles her overattentive ambassador, the rebellious barons who do not believe a woman can rule alone, and a bloody, costly war, the reader begins to understand what has made her into the Queen – and the person – she is.
Meanwhile, a visit from the magus of Sounis awakens Eugenides to the fact that his country is at war. His cousin, the Queen of Eddis, may lose her throne and her country. Eugenides is forced to grow up and become more than just a boy hero and a clever trickster. He remakes himself into a new kind of hero– and a new kind of Thief. As in The Thief , the gods play an important role, there are stories within stories, and the clever plot holds more than one surprise.