Led by Hanno and Ira Hath, 32 mostly Manth survivors of the fall of the Mastery search for the fabled Homeland. Ira knows that as long as she feels the warmth on her face, despite the wintry conditions, they are heading in the right direction. She also knows that, according to the prophecy, she will die when they reach the homeland. She grows weaker with every step. Hanno must keep up the spirits of the marchers on the gruelling journey.
The city of Aramanth has become a kinder place, but in becoming kinder it has also become weaker, making it the perfect target for the ruthless soldiers of the Mastery. After a swift and brutal battle that leaves the city burned and the Manth people destined for slavery, Kestrel finds herself alone, angry and bitterly sworn to wreak her own revenge. But first she must find her beloved brother Bowman, and he in turn must find a way of understanding the secrets of the mysterious Singer people.
"I hate school! I hate ratings! I won't reach higher! I won't strive harder! I won't make tomorrow better than today!" In the walled city of Aramanth, exams are everything - not only for children, but for whole families. When Kestrel Hath dares to rebel, the Chief Examiner humiliates her father and sentences the family to the harshest punishment.