This is a reasonably complete story in a new world. It's obvious at the end of the book that there's more to come, but it does have an ending that resolves a number of issues.
I've read a bunch of Briggs' novels since I discovered her, and I've developed some really high expectations. Perhaps unfairly high; this book didn't quite meet them. It is good. A relatively standard fantasy world, familiar enough to be comfortable but not painfully cliched. Strong protagonists that I cared about. The writing is clear, and the book isn't too painfully long. But it was only good, not great, and I realized that there were some problems with believing the story -- the characters are so powerful and capable in the clutch that it casts doubt on how they could have been where they were before the bad stuff happened and got the story running.
7 out of 10.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- MASSIVE SPOILERS ****
(in a rush, so this is less detailed than it might be, but I don't want it sitting here not done when I come back...)
Tier has had a successful career as a soldier but the war is over so he's returning to his home town, where he doesn't really want to go, when he comes upon a Traveler mage being burned to death, and then discovers his sister Seraph hiding upstairs and rescues her. He takes her to his village and ends up falling in love with her, and she marries him, even though as a Traveler she's supposed to continue her wandering around. Then we skip ahead 20 years, where Tier and Seraph have been happily eking out an existence on a marginal farm. It's so marginal that Tier has to go out trapping in the winter. And then he doesn't come home on time, and the local ruler's huntsman reports that they found his horse and his bones, apparently taken by an old bad magic left behind from the last magic war. Only it turns out, when they examine it, that it was faked. And the priest of the new odd local cult turns out to be Shadowed. And his assistant is another Raven, a Traveler mage of the same order as Seraph. They learn that Tier has been kidnapped and go to the capital to rescue him, falling in with a clan of Travelers.
Meanwhile, Tier, who it turns out is a Bard even though he doesn't have Traveler blood, is quietly taking over the cabal that has him prisoner, and he's most of the way to having rescued himself. And the dissipated fop of a puppet emperor, with the help of the ghost of another Raven who'd been killed by the cabal before, grows some balls and helps. The core of the cabal are killed, except for the real bad guy, the Shadow itself, which escapes. So it's clear that our plucky family has another big quest before they get their happily ever after, though this book ends with a successful rescue.