The new queen is about to be crowned, but for Nepenthe, life goes on as it did, translating strange alphabets into modern language. When Bourne, one mage of the Floating School, gives her a book in an alphabet of thorn, she grows obsessed with it, and the ancient tales it tells of Axis and Kane, and the conquests won by Axis with Kane's magic.
Meanwhile, the old mage Vevey tries to make something of the queen, whose nobles might tear apart her realm with their ambitions. And the Dreaming King woke enough to warn of a terrible danger facing the realm: thorns. And Queen Tessera goes walking in the woods about the Floating School. . .
There is also a past storyline, which I often find hard to cope with, but in this novel, the plotlines are neatly woven enough to keep past and present straight, even as we get an addition of coins, invisibility, a hunt in the woods, realms that Axis could not have conquered because they were after his time, accusations of treason, and names.