Set in the "First History" of the [book:Ash] series.I knew this was half a book going in, so I won't dock it for that; less satisfying is the central character, Ilario, who is a hermaphrodite fleeing the murderous schemes of a politically ambitious mother. Many people seem attracted to and/or fond of the young person, and I haven't the faintest idea why. I like that Gentle makes Ilario believably young and impetuous, but Ilario is also self-centered and not particularly thoughtful. Gender is also treated jauntily; I'm not convinced that, in such a patriarchial world, the young hermaphrodite would so proudly proclaim him/herself *both* rather than going for masculine privilege, or at least not without more internal conflict. The plot is picaresque, which is not from my taste, and I think a lot of it is supposed to be vaguely humorous; unfortunately, [book:Grunts] proved Gentle's sense of humor and mine aren't compatible.