THE SETTING

Welcome to Stonereik, greatest country of them all. It is bordered to the north by the mountain range known as the Thirteen Princes, which protect it from the forbidding icy wastes beyond.

To the west lies Hexalhen, where the open plains have made its cities an easy target for invaders. To the east is Kavor, nicknamed the Desolate Confederation since its collapse following the death of its beloved king. Now his heirs fight among themselves for power and for the right to launch another invasion of Stonereik. Further south lies Murthady, a land dominated by merchants happy to trade with anybody, for anything.

Stonereik has held onto its power despite frequent attacks by rivals jealous of its seemingly endless supply of silver.

That supply sits below Peak, a city that rises for 100 storeys with the Thirteen Princes at its back and the fast-flowing Jagged River protecting its front. Peak is a harsh place, where narrow, windowless halls can stretch for half a mile and many residents never see daylight. Here thousands of people try to make enough money to rise from the dark lower floors to the upper levels, where the sunlight breaks through the mountains and open spaces abound.

But for those in the low rooms, living or working in the silver mines of the Rip or the markets around the Chill, rising is difficult: guilds like the Hundred Hands and the Union Immortal control the flow of wealth and information, and life is cheap in the darkened courtyards far from the Flights leading up. With every new step they climb, the people of Peak move closer to Stonereik's administrator, the Reiklord, whose passion for the city is second only to his love for Veil the mystic, the country's rarely-seen ruler. They also attract more attention from Veil's bodyguards, the strange Bone Men, near-silent watchers with unnerving powers.

As enemies far and wide eye it jealously, Peak remains the centre of the world. It is a place where many will do whatever it takes to take themselves even a few steps higher towards the sun...

MORE INFORMATION

An introduction to the key characters

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