In this sequel to The Briar King, Anne, her maid Austra, and her protectors Cazio and z'Acatto are working to earn passage by sea to her home in Eslen, while trying to keep a low profile. Anne and Austra experience further trials with their friendship and Anne learns more about her destiny and undergoes a transformation into a mature and powerful adult. Sir Neil, against his wishes, and still haunted by the death of his love, Fastia, travels south to find Anne and meets with treachery and unexpected kindness. Meanwhile, Aspar, Winna, and Stephen Darige are tasked by Praifec Hespero to hunt down and kill the awakened Briar King. However, they discover that his presence might not be as harmful as the Church fears and discover more evidence that makes them question the Church's motives. Queen Muriele governs Eslen with a much wiser hand than her husband ever did, but she is faced with many challenges and finds unexpected allies. The book ends with her in prison after a palace coup by her brother-in-law Sir Robert, who has literally returned from the dead, but she has managed to keep her son safe and out of harm's way.
In addition to the familiar characters from The Briar King, The Charnel Prince introduced a new main character, a composer and a musical genius Leovigild "Leoff" Ackenzal. Heading to the royal castle to meet the late king William. Leoff accidentally stumbles on an evil plot to drown the Lowlands under waters. He helps to thwart the attempt and becomes a small hero. This helps him to get a position as the court composer and to start his masterwork, an opera-styled musical composition that brings together singers and an orchestra of 30 players for the first time in the history of the world. However, to finish his work, he has to find his way through the complex political situation of the court and the censorship of Praifec Hespero.