Ros, a young boy living on a drought-stricken farm, makes friends with the invisible Escher, who begins to train him in the magic of the Change. His journey leads him to leave the farm in order to decide who is telling the truth and who his real friends are.
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Adi's body has been borne away across the desert by her Clan, but her spirit remains Ros's constant companion. If he can't find the travellers in time, Adi will be presumed dead and her body cremated, leaving her a ghost forever. But Ros is not prepared for the dangers lurking in the shifting sands. Rescued from bandits and Dust Devils by a boy named Yury, he takes refuge in Yury's home - an extensive network of tunnels known as Dunetown - and learns that Yury in turn needs Ros's help. His family has been kidnapped by the sand bandits, a ruthless gang led by a psychopath obsessed with treasure and power. Ros must learn to trust again, and to overcome those who cannot ever be trusted.
Along the way, they encounter a mysterious stranger, who disappears along with their guardian, Varis. Tracking them by use of the magic known as the Change, the friends are confronted by a powerful charm impeding further discovery. But a brush with the spirit world has given one of them the power to see the island fort where Varis has been taken, and helped by Pukje, an imp-like stranger, they plan a rescue.