In the frozen north of a far-flung world lies Villiren, a city plagued by violent gangs and monstrous human/animal hybrids, stalked by a serial killer, and targeted by an otherworldly army. Brynd Lathraea has brought his elite Night Guard to help Villiren build a fighting force against the invaders. But success will mean dealing with the half-vampyre leader of the savage Bloods gang. Meanwhile, reptilian rumel investigator Rumex Jeryd has come seeking refuge from Villjamur's vindictive emperor -- only to find a city riddled with intolerance between species, indifference to a murderer's reign of terror, and the powerful influence of criminals. As the enemy prepares to strike, and Villiren's defenders turn on each other, three refugees -- deposed empress Jamur Rika, her sister Eir, and the scholar Randur Estevu -- approach the city. And with them they bring a last, desperate hope for survival . . . and a shocking revelation that will change everything.