It is 1556 and the queen's astrologer, the prophet Nostradamus, has uncovered a secret that could destroy the kingdom of France. He has discovered that the queen, Catherine de Medici, a notorious dabbler in Black Magic, has decided to seek out the legendary Master of All Desires in order to get rid of the king's mistress, Diane de Poitiers.
But she does not understand that the Master, a living, mummified head residing in an antique coffer, is the very quintessence of malice, twisting the wishes that he grants to bring destruction and damnation to everyone around him.
Through chance, the box containing the Master has fallen into the hands of a bluestocking poetess, Sibille Artaud de la Roque, who is full of her own desires: for beauty, for artistic greatness, and for a dashing, brilliant cavalier. Can Nostradamus stop these two determined ladies from wishing the entire kingdom to perdition?
The three-way battle that ensues -- between a prophet who scorns poetry, a woman in love, and a sly and ruthless queen -- is set in a world where colorful court pageantry conceals a nation balanced on the brink of bloody civil war.
A millennium novel set among the magicians, astrologers, and prognosticators of the renaissance court of Catherine de Medici, Queen of France and patroness of Nostradamus.
"Again mixing history and fantasy with elan, the author of The Oracle Glass and The Serpent Garden offers a tightly woven, suspenseful, and fiendishly funny novel....Lush period detail and sprightly dialogue laced with humor and courtly pomp....." Publisher's Weekly
"At her best here, Riley has concocted a delightful blend of history, romance, and the supernatural...." Booklist
"Another dazzling mix of history, romance, and the occult from Riley....." Kirkus Reviews