The Red-Stained WIngs by Elizabeth Bear

“In this satisfyingly complex sequel to The Stone in the Skull, the descendants of the Alchemical Emperor vie for dominion over the remnants of his empire, or for simple survival for themselves and their people. In the city of Sarathai-tia, the young rajni, Mrithuri, faces a siege by the power-hungry raja Anuraja. She is supported by her own court and by new arrivals­including Serhan, the Dead Man, a former bodyguard and her new lover­but one of her inner circle may be a traitor. Anuraja holds hostage Sayeh Rajni, the trans or “third-sex” ruler of Ansh-Sahal, whose realm was destroyed by a volcanic eruption caused by Anuraja’s wizard accomplice, Ravani. Sayeh’s son, Drupada, has been kidnapped by a fourth royal, raja Himadra, who hopes to assume guardianship over the boy and thus control the refugees and army of Ansh-Sahal. And Serhan’s friend the Gage, a brass automaton with a human soul, continues his journey through a poisonous landscape in search of the Singing City of the dragons and possible allies there. Sorcery and scheming successfully propel the characters and plot lines of this rich and lovely India-tinged fantasy.” — Publishers Weekly