Guy Gavriel Kay, bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, once again visits a world that evokes one that existed in our own past, this time the tumultuous period of Renaissance Europe - a world on the verge of war, where ordinary lives play out in the grand scheme of kingdoms colliding.
From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates , a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the Grand Khalif at his request - and possibly to do more - and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor's wife in her role of a spy.
The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the clever younger son of a merchant family -with ambivalence about the life he's been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif-to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.
As these lives entwine, their fates - and those of many others - will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world . . .