Venezia, 1422. Doge Tommaso Mocenigo is on his death bed. An evil has come to Venice. An evil that will set the course for the future of La Serenissima.
On the eve of Carnivale five wealthy Venetian merchants set upon a mask maker in the ancient district of Santa Croce. They are led by a monster - a patrician of ruthless means, one named Giacomo Contarini. The following day the Venice Republic's security council, the most feared Council of Ten, summons the Florentine inquisitor, Antonio da Parma, to hold an inquest on a most baffling case. During a sumptuous banquet four of the merchants, including Giacomo Contarini, have met a chilling death.
Antonio da Parma's reputation precedes him. He is known for his susceptibility to the occult and is sternly warned that the Consiglio dei Dieci want none of that. Yet in the throes of this macabre investigation, Antonio da Parma soon finds himself lured by his dreams and visions, and by the mysterious silver pendant that he discovers on one of the dead merchants.
Enter the dashing Esteban del Valle, a formidable Dardi-trained swordmaster of Nubian origins. Esteban grieves his stolen inheritance and the death of his Catalan adopted father. He survives, mysteriously, through the influence of high ranking patricians. He never removes his mask and has sworn to reclaim his wealth.
Noble Catarina Contarini has a sad tale to tell. Her husband's death weighs upon her and so too, do the scandalous accusations that have been made against him. In her grief, she confides in Antonio da Parma and reveals her shocking secrets. But Catarina's darkest secret concerns a witch; a Napoletana named Magdalena. Antonio da Parma is drawn ever closer to the magnetic Magdalena. He unveils the truth behind the merchants' murders and comes face to face with a machination of monstrous evil.
Through this fascinating Magdalena, an enchanter of admirals and merchants alike, Antonio begins to realize that his true quest is one he could never have imagined.