Ren the Spymaster needs Rialla to go back to the land of Darran from whence she escaped, and there pretend to be a slave while actually being a spy. She agrees to do this, after some angst, because the mission has a chance of eliminating slavery in Darran forever. While in Darran, of course she encounters her former owner, who tries to take her from her mock-owner, Laeth; later, he succeeds and Rialla goes back into training as a dancer. But this time, she can lean a bit on the slow return of her empathic powers and a mental link with a Sylvan (yeah, like a tree-person or something) named Tris. Also, it helps her, sometimes, that she chose to pretend to be a slave.
I liked Tris. He can do some cool magic, and he's a nice guy for a tree-person, and he doesn't tell Rialla that someone told him they would end up together in a romantic kind of way. I would have liked to have seen more of that, and less of all this actual plot business which felt a bit overcomplicated for the book's length; there's the original mission with the guy who was going to stop slavery because of an arranged marriage with a non-slaveholding country, and that guy's murder, and there's an Eastern Empire with a new Religious Prophet, and Mysterious Doings on the part of Rialla's former owner, and the chief wizard and the Spymaster, and etcetera. I didn't care about all that very much. I wanted more romance, and was disappointed that it got tied off so quickly at the end. And I wanted to know more about the Sylvans and their culture and how it was clashing with that of the humans.
I did like that the Religious Prophet plotline had a couple of interesting twists. It would have made an interesting separate story of its own. A lof of things in this book would have made interesting separate stories of their own.
By the way, Rialla does not go running around in her dancing garb, but does her crawling around in men's clothes, which she has to hold on by wrapping miscellaneous belts around her. Another good thing is that, when there's a rescue to accomplisy, she does what she can actually do, which is fetch the horses, instead of insisting on going along with Tris to sneak into a tower full of armed guards. True, she then uses the horses to draw off pursuit, but again, that's something she can do; she isn't one of those heroines who insists of being the star all the time. Yes, she's beautiful, but it's set up as something dangerous to her rather than otherwise.
Warnings: there is a rape, but it happens entirely off-screen. There are some inconsistencies in the magic systems that seem to be there to make the plot work. And, well, the bond between Tris and Rialla is made without her full knowledge, and even though later she wants it, it still is kind of bondage...unless that was meant to be ironic.