When last we saw our heroes, monsters from another dimension had swarmed out of an inter-dimensional gateway to overwhelm the Morning City and then the Peradaini empire (of which the Morning City had been the capital). As the cast of characters dwindled rapidly (in a way that those of us with crappy memories appreciate) the survivors have gained a realistic understanding of their situation.
The empire is dead, although parts of it remain unconquered by the invaders. But it gets worse.
The Blessing, the enemy’s foot soldiers, are fast and fearsome. Their bite slowly and painfully transforms their victims into more soldiers of the Blessing. The Blessing are so preternaturally fast that that even standard Imperial formations are ineffective against just one member of the Blessing. To oppose the Blessing is to add to their numbers. Healing magic only accelerates the process. Once bitten, the only escape from transformation is death.
As Tyr Tejohn Treygar discovers to his own cost, the lords of the nations formerly conquered by the empire are less interested in trying to turn back the wave of invaders than they are in exploiting the situation for their own gain. To those lords, Tejohn isn’t a voice rallying the empire for joint defense, but a reminder of loathsome subjugation.
There are a handful of allies who value human survival over short-term gain. To them Tejohn can offer but a slim hope. If someone trained in the magical arts will aid him, Tejohn might be able to reach distant Tempest Pass, the home of scholar-Prince Ghoron Italga. If Ghoron can be convinced to share his knowledge of a powerful and lethal spell, the invaders might be turned back. But there are many miles between Tejohn and the scholar-Prince, miles filled with soldiers of the Blessing.
The Blessing aren’t the only newcomers to this world. At the end of the previous book Cazia Freewell and her two companions, Ivy and Kinz, were captured by the ant-like Tilkilit. The Tilkilit queen has vast powers of telepathy and uses it to torment the poor prisoners; any thought of disloyalty to the nest is swiftly detected and punished.
The Tilkilit and their giant burrowing worms would be as great a menace to the world as the Blessing, if only the insect-warriors hadn’t had the bad luck to appear in the Qorr Valley. Surrounded by steep walls of rock, the valley is a hostile prison for the Tilkilit, who must escape to survive. Cazia’s magic could create a tunnel out of the valley, but only if the Queen can break Cazia’s will to resist. Cazia resists, but it is not clear that she can do so indefinitely.
If the girls are to escape their torments, they must forgive old grudges and learn to cooperate. Much to her own irritation, former imperial hostage Cazia is seen as the face of the empire by the other girls — who have many reasons to resent the empire.
Even if the girls do escape the insects and the valley, and learn to work as a unit, there’s a bigger problem. The Blessing, the Tilkilit and the other strange beings swarming into the world are themselves only the tools of the beings orchestrating the invasion. Humanity’s true enemy isn’t a collection of monsters and alien warriors.
It is the gods themselves.
I like the title I picked for this but “a series of increasingly disquieting revelations” would have been almost as good. For the most part, every new thing Tejohn learns reveals that the terrible situation is even worse than he thought . Cazia’s immediate personal plight isn’t quite as grim, but she is the one who learns the most disquieting thing of all: who the real enemy is.
The body count in this installment is much lower than it was in The Way into Chaos. This is less because the heroes learned to strike back effectively, which they haven’t, but because the enemy is running short on people to kill or convert, at least onstage.
The one great weakness of this volume considered on its own is that it is the middle volume of three. It wasn’t intended to be considered on its own. Author Harry Connolly released all three parts of The Great Way back to back  for good reason; they form an ongoing narrative, not three closely related standalone novels. I rather stupidly read the first book in January and then let six months pass before beginning the second one and I probably won’t be able to get around to the next one immediately. Don’t do what I did; pick up all three and read them as one book.
1: Tejohn is upset because he thinks that he killed a human child when he killed the Blessing soldier that emerged from the child. He shouldn’t fret. The soldiers that emerge may be shaped by their hosts, but the host does not become the soldier. The host seems more akin to a caterpillar parasitized by a Glyptapanteles wasp. The wasp larvae develop inside the caterpillar, then chew their way out, leaving their host to die. There’s an amusing factoid to cheer the rest of your day.
2: December 2014, January 2015, and February 2015.