When we left Arthur Penhaligon at the end of Drowned Wednesday he had not managed to return to our reality after his third adventure in the House. As the Rightful Heir of the Architect, the designer and absent ruler of all realities, the reluctant Arthur had been tasked to reclaim the seven parts of the Architect’s Will and depose the seven Trustees who were mishandling the House and, by extension, damaging all the various dimensions in the Secondary Realms of which Arthur’s home is a part.
Arthur didn’t go home, but something that looked like him did. The Skinless Boy is a double with the power to control others by means of a sorcerous spore mould which is passed by touch. Arthur can’t get back to Earth as long as it is there, so one of his friends, Leaf, is dispatched to find the piece of Arthur’s clothing which was used to create the creature.
Meanwhile, Arthur finds himself bereft of his memory, due to being “washed between the ears”, forced to serve in Sir Thursday's army (the fourth level of the house is very military) and trapped into fighting against the surprisingly organized hordes of Nithlings (beings created out of the original Nothing) who are attempting to invade the House.
Just before he was caught in the draft, so to speak, Arthur had learned that his continued use of magic in his struggle to claim his heritage is slowly transforming him into a Denizen of the House. If he passes the 60% mark in his saturation with magic, he will never be simply human again. It appears that this is the outcome which the Will would prefer so Arthur now has to think in terms of a two front struggle: how to preserve reality while not being transformed in the effort.
Because Arthur spends so much of this book not knowing who he is, there’s a larger role in events for his friends, both human and denizen. Leaf and Suzy carry out missions that are essential to Arthur’s success this time and this expands the scope of the story quite a bit, allowing us to see what’s going on back on Earth while Arthur is away.
Annoyingly, this book ends in another cliffhanger and we’ll all have to wait for Lady Friday to see what happens next.