The Introduction sets the scene without ado: there are many threats facing the Solar Exalted chief of whom are the other kinds of Exalted, and the purpose of this book is to enable the Storyteller to create quick yet effective representatives of all other Exalts to serve as allies or - more likely - enemies in the course of the chronicle that is to be told. More detail on both the five kinds of Exalt and on creating antagonists in general than is to be found in the core rules is presented,along with information about the high-level politicking that goes on which can be used as background or even as something for the characters to get involved with if the thought of mixing diplomacy and intrigue with warfare appeals.
Chapter 1 looks at the Dragon-Blooded. Often implacable foes, they are motivated by the belief that the Solars can only accomplish their objectives by trampling the Dragon-Blooded, underfoot. Due to their origins and links to one of the five Elemental Dragons, each Dragon-Blooded Exalt's skills and abilities are based on their affliated Dragon rather than societal role. Their whole mindset draws upon their links to the Dragons and their role in history as prime agents in the overthrow of the Solar Exalted, and the Immaculate Philosophy of reincarnation that forms the core of their beliefs. There's a wealth of information here about the educational opportunities and careers available to Dragon-Blooded, plenty to enable you to imagine their society and approach to life, and why they find the resurgance of the Solar Exalted such a threat to their very existance. The chapter rounds off with a selection of sample Dragon-Blooded and a list of Charms that they - or ones you create yourself - are likely to know.
Next is Chapter 2: The Lunar Exalted. The Lunars appear as past masters of the art of running away, but their actions are motivated by what they perceive as their duties to Creation itself, to Luna who bestowed their powers upon them and to their descendents. Survival against a time when they can ascend to positions of leadership drives them in all that they do. They have a loose organisation which enables them to achieve specific objectives and retain social cohesion. Due to their habits, they are less likely to be encountered by the average Solar Exalt except by chance. Against that chance, the information necessary to create a Lunar Exalt is presented here, complete with examples and notes on the notable powers and other abilities available to them.
Chapter 3: The Sidereal Exalted looks at the Chosen of the Five Maidens, the stars that rule over all others and control Fate... or try to! As chosen, the Sidereals are mainly employed as agents of the Five Maidens and rarely engage in deep meditation on their purpose as they are given their orders. Duties are clearly laid out from the moment of Exaltation and involve planning Fate and sorting things out when they don't go according to plan. Naturally, not all Sidereals agree about the best method of accomplishing their goals and so different factions have arisen. Again, sample Sidereals and a list of charms available to them are provided. There is also a fascinating explanation of Sidereal astrology which rather than predicting the future creates it - powerful magic indeed.
Next, Chapter 4 looks at the Abyssal Exalted. In service to the powers of the Underworld, they're often called deathknights and widely held to be evil - or at least inimicable to Creation and most of the creatures therein. Their re-emergence coincides with that of the Solars, and some say that for every Solar you get an Abyssal or even that they are the same individual at different points in their overall existance, light and dark sides of the same coin. They are commanded by 13 Deathlords, of whom 9 are described here (the intent being to leave some slots to be filled by Deathlords of the Storyteller's design). Sample deathknights and the charms available to them are also listed, along with some notes on necromancy.
The final type of Exalted to be examined are the Solars themselves. This chapter will give a good idea of how they appear to others, and how wider Solar society will appear to the characters. However well-meaning, they attract trouble like a pot of honey attracts flying critters and so can always prove amusing additions to your story. Some samples are provided, along with a list of Solar Artifacts, often long-buried in tombs of Solars from millenia ago but very useful if you manage to unearth them.
Finally, the appendix Mandate of Heaven covers the game of statecraft as played amongst the Exalted, particularly the Dragon-Blooded on the Blessed Isle. Various texts expound the theories and are studied by those who wish to excel, much as the Art of War by Sun Tzu and Machiavelli's The Prince can prove beneficial in the real world. Here, though, is presented a system to model the game of statecraft as a plot-generation device or to provide a backdrop to your own stories. It's an abstraction of the constant manoeuvering between states vying for advantage or struggling for survival and can be played out as a down-time activity if so desired. You can keep it as a player thing, or involve people's characters in what is going on and so link things tightly to your ongoing plot. A neat system with the scope for making things very interesting in your interpretation of this alternate reality, determining the fate of nations in a style fitting with the rest of the game as a whole. (It's also available as a stand-alone PDF for groups with a Storyteller who wishes to restrict some of the information herein!)
Overall, this is a useful book for the Storyteller, to aid him in understanding more of what is going on within Exalted societies and specifically in creating worthy adversaries and allies. The Mandate of Heaven provides a powerful tool for creating dynamic events between nations and domains, allowing player contributions and even character involvement in moulding a storyline unique to your game.
[4 of 5 Stars!]