The third volume in Kate Elliott's "Crown of Stars," The Burning Stone finds familiar characters discovering hidden strengths that will see them through the pain and fear of intimate betrayals and unfulfilled loyalties. At very least the equal to both King's Dragon and Prince of Dogs, The Burning Stone builds on the formidable foundations laid down in those first two books, developing a story and world that are among the most fully realized in fantasy today.
Liath and Sanglant, forbidden to marry by King Henry but unable to deny their almost obsessive love, slip away from the king's court to begin a life together. Liath's buried sorcerous abilities drive her to find someone -- anyone but the hated Frater Hugh -- who can help her control and develop her unharnessed talent. Sanglant, the King's bastard son by an otherworldly Aoi woman, refutes his father's attempts to make him heir to the throne of Wendar and Varre. He chooses to accompany Liath, the memory of whom kept him sane during his year of captivity under the inhuman Eika at war-torn Gent.
Count Lavastine's legitimized bastard son Alain finds himself betrothed to King Henry's niece, but her rabid religosity prevents him from completing the one task his father requires of him: to get an heir to Lavas Holding on that frail young woman who is in line for the throne of the land. When an Eika curse fells Lavastine, the grieving Alain finds himself once again cast out and alone, but still linked inexplicably to Fifth Son, the escaped Eika prisoner who is determined to rise to rulership of his alien people. As the king's other children vie for the title of heir, an elite and secret group of sorcerors prepare themselves to head off a cataclysm written in the Crown of Stars, an ultimate devastation first prophesied when the Aoi disappeared from the world. It is an apocalypse whose unwitting players are the same confused young people who have been written off by the worldly powers that still be.
It's hard to be too generous when talking about Kate Elliott's "Crown of Stars." In the practice of characterization, world-building and storytelling, Elliott gives nothing less than a stellar performance. This is a series ranking up there with George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" and arguably better than fantasy behemoth Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time." The Burning Stone and its predecessors are not to be missed by any connoisseur of modern quest fantasy.