When his father publicly shames him, Jebel Rum takes the brand of quester and seeks the blessing of the fire god to obtain strength and invincibility. Guided by his sacrificial slave, Tel Hasani, Jebel encounters a fanatical cult, grave robbers and secretive regimes along the way. When he finally encounters the god, Jebel must decide if his quest goal has changed in the course of his journey. Readers will find less gore than in previous novels--though the corporeal mortification scenes are intense and disturbing--which tamps down the action, and the exploration of justice, fairness, morality and religion are at times oversimplified. Hasani’s annoyance with his spoiled charge is perfectly fitting, though, and Jebel’s character development arcs nicely. Readers familiar with Huckleberry Finn may recognize parallels between Hasani and Jebel and Jim and Huck, a deliberate echo that is perhaps this book's greatest success. Heads roll at the start, but by the end, Shan reaches for the heartstrings.