In the first novel, The Skewed Throne, we are introduced to Varis, a young gutterscum orphan who has been living for years on her own in the Dredge, scavenging whatever she could to survive in Amenkor's filthy slums. But Varis has a secret weapon, known only to her. She can go deep into the "river" when searching the city, an enhanced Sight she's had since a near death accident as a young child. Everything is blurry, as if viewed under water, and those people or things who present a danger to her she sees in red, while safe people are grey. When she meets Erick, a specialized guardsman of the Mistress, her life changes. Erick trains her, building on her already honed survival skills, to make her into a formidable assistant as someone who is able to hide in the shadows, unseen, and locate those marks whom Erick seeks - the people the Mistress has deemed must die. Unfortunately, Erick spies another gutterscum with promise, a young man Varis has nicknamed Bloodmark due to his obvious blood red facial birthmark. Since Bloodmark and Varis have been street enemies for some time, their pairing by Erick to hunt marks won't go well.
When Varis and Bloodmark have a showdown, Varis flees the Dredge to the real Amenkor on the other side of the river, and gains employment as a bodyguard to Borund, a wealthy merchant. It is in service to Borund that her deadly skills are noticed and she is asked to perform a dangerous and crucial task - to murder the Mistress, who has been slowly going insane since the White Fire spread through the city several years before, and she is currently destroying the city with her orders to close it off for the winter, despite having a lack of food to survive.
In the second novel, The Cracked Throne, Amenkor has a new Mistress and her main goal is to prepare the city for the upcoming winter, especially considering the former Mistress had closed off the harbor. Plans are made to stockpile food and it is soon discovered that someone is stealing from the food reserves, which could mean the difference between life and death for the residents of Amenkor. A new warehouse district is in the process of being built, following the disastrous fire in the previous book, and both the denizens of the Dredge and those of the finer parts of the city are all working together to rebuild, being paid each day in food for their efforts. However, it seems that treachery is all around the throne as several key people are working together to steal food from the city, but to what end?
To make matters worse, as the Mistress hones her Sight skills with the power of the Throne behind her, including all of those powerful souls trapped within it, she has a devastating vision of the future, one in which death and destruction reign down on the harbor of Amenkor. Could the previous Mistress have had the same vision, resulting in her closing the harbor in an attempt to protect the city from whatever violent force could be attacking from the ocean? As it turns out, a dark and malevolent people not seen in Amenkor for some 1500 years, the Chorl, plan to attack and at least one soul resident inside the throne is deathly familiar with them, but with treachery among the Mistress' ranks, is Amenkor doomed to fall?
The Vacant Throne finds the people of Amenkor and its Mistress trying to rebuild and recover from the devastating attack from the Chorl. In order to survive, great sacrifices were made not only by the Mistress, but the people of Amenkor themselves. Although the Chorl were driven back and suffered tremendous losses as well, they are sure to return, as the visions from the Throne have shown the Mistress in the past. Now fearing an impending Chorl threat to the sister city of Venitte, the Mistress and her entourage travel there to urge their leader, Lord March and the Council of Eight, to prepare for the onslaught, but as they navigate the unfamiliar and dangerous waters of political intrigue among the upper class in Venitte, the Mistress and those she travels with may find more to fear than the savage Chorl.
I absolutely loved all three stories collected within The Throne of Amenkor. The characters were fantastic and layered, and Joshua Palmatier isn't afraid to kill off beloved characters for the sake of the story, so you can never rest easy while reading. It's not to the George R.R. Martin level, by any stretch, but it provides an additional layer of tension for the reader. The stories are exciting, engaging, and thrilling and I actually didn't realize how in love I had become with the world of Amenkor until I finished the tome and started reading another book. My only complaint is the book is so huge that it is not as easy to read in bed, if you enjoy reading before going to sleep, since it's much heavier than a typical book.
I have intentionally been vague about the specific characters in the books following the first, since so many amazing changes occur and I don't want to spoil things for those who will be reading the series, but I can say this - I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Amenkor and would love another series of books from Palmatier written in the same lands. He can definitely spin a good fantasy yarn. Highly, highly recommended.