Skirmish is the fourth novel in the long-awaited House War series. Set in the same rich fantasy universe as Michelle West’s Sacred Hunt duo logy and her six-volume Sun Sword series, the House War novels recount the events leading to the momentous battle between the demonic minions of the Lord of the Hells and the defenders of the Essalieyan Empire — a realm with a long and bloody history. The empire is ruled by the Twin Kings, sons of the gods. It is also controlled by The Ten, the heads of the most influential Houses in Averalaan, the capital of the Empire.
But The House War focuses not only on the larger war but also, and more importantly, on the campaign to control the most powerful of the ruling Houses in the Essalieyan Empire – House Terafin.
As Skirmish opens, Amarais ATerafin – The Terafin – lies dead, assassinated by a demon at the very moment that Jewel ATerafin returns from the war in the South, appearing as if out of thin air, having traveled by hidden paths. Jewel is accompanied by her domicis Avandar, known as the Warlord, by Lord Celleriant of the Winter Queen’s court, and she rides on the back of a giant stag – the Winter King. Yet still she cannot arrive in time to save her leader, but only in time for Celleriant to slay the demon assassin.
Jewel returns to a city beset by a mysterious “sleeping sickness” for which there appears to be no cure. Only one healer – a young man who shelters with Jewel’s den – can temporarily wake the sleepers so they make take enough sustenance to survive. And the sickness continues to spread unchecked. As the Empire strives to combat this insidious disease, and stave of demonic attacks, House Terafin begins preparations for the funeral of its Lord. And four members of the House declare themselves as candidates to claim the House Seat, ready to do whatever it takes to wrest control.
Only Jewel remains silent, though she is the heir secretly designated by Amarais before her departure to the South. While some seek to intimidate Jewel or recruit her for their own bids, others begin to gather around her: her own den, the most loyal of House Terafin’s Chosen, Haval the dressmaker, powerful magi, and three mysterious ‘winged cats’ who come to her in the midst of a deadly encounter in a forest not meant for mortals to walk….
Jewel is determined not to make any decisions before the Terafin is laid to rest. But as the enemies of House and Empire mobilize, it becomes terrifyingly clear that everyone – including Jewel and her otherworldly allies – must survive the three days of the funeral rites before they can even be certain that there will be a House Terafin left to fight over….