This is book 2 in Mercedes Lackey's "The Last Herald-Mage" series. The first book, Magic's Pawn, introduced us to Vanyel Ashkevron, a complex and alienated youth just coming into his Herald-Mage powers. In that book, he met and lost his life partner, Tylendel.
This book opens twelve years later, and Vanyel is now a very powerful and respected Herald-Mage. He is still alienated, he's a loner and most fear him since his power is so far beyond others like him. He is still grieving for Tylendel, unable to open himself up to try to find a new love in his life.
This book was even better than the first in the series. This volume has a much more developed plotline. The story finally matters - this time the story has a hint of a mystery to solve in it, and explores much more of the background of the land and peoples of Valdemar. But Lackey doesn't neglect the characters that made the first book so involving. Vanyel remains an interesting hero, even though he is exhausted and despairingly lonely throughout most of the story. (An encounter with Death near the end of the book is particularly evocative, enlightening Vanyel's mindstate.)
I'm moving on to the third and last book in the series next. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a good outcome for Vanyel (although I'm dubious, since the next book is entitled "Magic's Price" and the name of the series is "The LAST Herald Mage" (my emphasis). I guess I'll have to read it to find out!