Paris in the aftermath of the Great Magicians War. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black, thick with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France's once grand capital. House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, now lies in disarray.
Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan – the capital of the Aztecs. The end of the world is kept at bay only by the magic of human sacrifice. A priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. Acatl, high priest, must find her, or break the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead. But how do you find someone, living or dead, in a world where blood sacrifices are an everyday occurrence and the very gods stalk the streets?
When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn's amusement. But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side.
The year is Two House and the Mexica Empire teeters on the brink of destruction, lying vulnerable to the flesh-eating star-demons – and to the return of their creator, a malevolent goddess only held in check by the Protector God’s power. The council is convening to choose a new emperor, but when a councilman is found dead, only Acatl, High Priest of the Dead, can solve the mystery. When he hears rumours of a sinister cabal of sorcerors he must face up to demons, not all of them his own.
As the city rebuilds from the onslaught of sorcery that nearly destroyed it, the great Houses of Paris, ruled by fallen angels, still contest one another for control over the capital. House Silverspires was once the most powerful, but just as it sought to rise again, an ancient evil brought it low. Phillippe, an immortal who escaped the carnage, has a singular goal - to resurrect someone he lost. But the cost of such magic might be more than he can bear.
The year is Three Rabbit, and the storm is coming…The coronation war for the new Emperor has just ended in a failure, the armies retreating with a mere 40 prisoners of war - not near enough sacrifices to ensure the favour of the gods. When one of those prisoners of war dies of a magical illness, ACATL, High Priest for the Dead, is summoned to investigate.
For generations, Prosper Station has thrived under the guidance of its Honoured Ancestress: born of a human womb, the station's artificial intelligence has offered guidance and protection to its human relatives. But war has come to the Dai Viet Empire. Prosper's brightest minds have been called away to defend the emperor; and a flood of disorientated refugees strain the station's resources.