The Summer Palace is the third volume in a fantasy trilogy known as the Annals of the Chosen. The first two are The Wizard Lord and The Ninth Talisman, and all three are available in trade paperback and ebook.
The Summer Palace was published in hardcover in June 2008 -- ISBN 978-0-7653-1028-6, cover price $25.95, now out of print. The mass-market paperback was published in August 2009, ISBN 978-0-7653-4903-3, and is also out of print. The ebook appeared in April 2010, and the trade paperback in March 2015; those are still available. (See links in left-hand column.)
The spiffy cover art, by Raymond Swanland, is to the right. Click on the image for a closer look.
Originally "The Summer Palace" was going to be the title of the second volume in the series, and the third was going to be The Ninth Talisman. They switched. Believe me, it works better this way.
This is the story of Sword, one of the Chosen Heroes who are charged with destroying any Wizard Lord who exceeds his rightful authority. In the two previous volumes we've seen the Chosen defeat one Dark Lord, but a new Wizard Lord may have changed the rules.
The Summer Palace picks up immediately after the end of The Ninth Talisman left off, with the Chosen Swordsman... well, I can't really tell you without spoiling The Ninth Talisman. Let's just say it's Sword's further adventures and wraps up the story.
Here's a brief excerpt I hope won't give away anything surprising:
The Summer Palace
by Lawrence Watt-Evans
excerpt from Chapter Fifteen
An hour later he found himself approaching the edge on his hands and knees, so that the howling wind could not blow him over the precipice. He watched great swirling plumes of snow blow out from the cliff-top, like white-speckled spiraling banners a hundred feet long, gleaming in the moonlight, and he knew that if he were to stand too close he would be swept off the edge as well.
He, however, would not glitter and swoop gracefully in the night air; instead he would tumble down the cliffs to a horrible painful death.
He fell to his belly and crept forward through the snow, so low to the ground that each time he brought up a knee the opposite end of the spear on his back would slap against the snow to the side. Despite this, in time he found himself peering over the top of that final snowbank.
He could not look straight down; there was no way to safely get that close to the edge. Instead he was looking along the curve of the cliff-face, toward where the trail doubled back on itself two miles south and half a mile down from where he lay.
He blinked snow from his eyes and squinted, trying to interpret what he saw in the colorless moonlight. At first the white and gray and black seemed mere meaningless lines and shapes, but at last he managed to resolve the image into stone, snow, and ice. He found the trail, and followed it with his gaze.
The path was not lost beneath drifting snow, as he had feared; snow had not clung to the sheer cliffs and piled up on the trail. No, it was worse.
It was covered in ice.
He could see how it would happen; the afternoon sun shining on the snow-pack atop the cliffs produced a thin trickle of melt-water, which ran down the cliffs and pooled on the first horizontal surface it struck -- which would usually be the trail. And there most of it froze again, building up over time into the thick sloping layer of slick gray ice he now saw shimmering glassily in the moonlight.
The entire route down the cliff was utterly impassable. He could not possibly hope to climb down mile upon mile of ice without sooner or later slipping over the edge and plummeting to a bloody death.
Whether going down to Winterhome to confront the Wizard Lord was a good idea or not no longer mattered. It wasn't possible. He was trapped in the Uplands until that ice melted in the spring thaw.
He was trapped -- and he didn't have enough food.
That's it; here's your list of handy exits: