Nazhuret, born in poverty but heir to royalty, has chosen the life of a beggar and wanderer. His companion is Arlin, also known as Charlan Bannering, a lady of noble birth who has trained as a swordsman, and who acts the part well. The two are given the task of traveling to the kingdom of Rezhmia, which is rumored to be arming for war against their homeland, Velonya.
On their way, they meet a tribe of Naiish, fierce nomadic tribesmen who live in the plains between the two kingdoms. They are captured, but escape, and in the process acquire a Naiish companion. The Naiish who joins them is an odd one: He refuses to tell his name, for names have power. He is the magician of his tribe, but he also has great knowledge of the cities. He becomes their guide, telling them he is a keeper of stories, and that they are a story happening.
Hazards of travel keep Nazhuret and Arlin from planning any strategies for stopping the war. Planning would have been in vain, however, for upon their arrival, the Naiish magician disappears, an earthquake rocks the city, and Nazhuret is mistaken for the reigning prince, setting in motion even more adventures.
Even though KING OF THE DEAD is the second book of a trilogy, it can stand alone. The characters are interesting, the scenery vivid, and even the coincidences are adequately foreshadowed so as not to irritate the reader. A fun read, despite some unevenness.