Hadrian returns to Vernes from Calis to visit Arcadias in Sheridan at the university, an old friend of his fathers and family. Hadrian travels by barge up the river with jewel merchants who claim the strange dark caped man is the killer Vernes is looking for. Hadrian believes in all people, but when people start disappearing and dying Hadrian wonders of this man.
Gwen is a young prostitute who wants out from under the employment of her boss, and the men he lets in his establishment. When another girl is killed and he threatens Gwen, she decides it's time to make her move. But she can't leave Medford. She's waiting for something, someone.
Royce is quiet, sneaky, quick, and deadly thief. He has an evil in his eyes. He trusts no one but himself.
Arcadias puts the fighter and the thief together, thinking they would be a good team. They might be good for each other, IF they can accomplish the job as a team, not separate, and live through it.
Gwen younger before she's on her own. Her life in Medford as a Calian, the prejudiced is so strong. How Gwen has come to her own, a hard story. Gwen's tale of coming to Medford and learning her talent.
We follow Hadrian and Gwen more than Royce. But Royce is the one we always have a mysterious feel of, and he's not much of a talker. It takes a bit to get our favorite duo together and the banter flowing, but when they do, the blooming of their quick wits are there.
Oh, for those who have read the first six (or three Orbit) books, we know the secrets and get to see the forming of them. Those who haven't read the books will have so many clues to what's to come. You will WANT to know more about these characters. I love seeing the clues now and Michael has dropped more in to connect later in the series as well.
We learn more of Calis being Hadrian fresh off ship from there. Even touches from Gwen as her mother was from there.
Through the over all story plot there are mini-plots, which Michael is amazing at. I really enjoyed these as they are used to tell the story of our characters growth, personalities, world drawing, and to bring the characters together. There's the murderer mystery going on with Hadrian on the barge. Gwen fighting for her own life and those of the girls around her, then coming into her own. Also, Hadrian and Royce meeting and training and trying to compromise to do the job Arcadias requests. There is even troubles at the university that stir.
The secrets in Gwen's character! Oh my. She has links that I had never really thought of. Great. Wonderful. Amazing to see this. Her story is a secret that is well to be known. And the grace she is left with, that person could be explained in reading the series - if you haven't yet.
I don't know how Michael does it, but when we finally get Royce and Hadrian banter it is wonderful! Just like old friends for me. They click so easily for me as a pair, even when they hate each other and think of ways to kill the other.
This is an amazing addition to the Riyria world. The way it all began. I could say you could read this one before or after the series, but if after you might catch more connections.