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The Bers have ruled Mierenthia with fire magic and an iron fist for hundreds of years, but now their magic is failing. The firepipes are dry. The firewells gape cold and empty, and the factories are shutting down. Light, warmth, and food are scarce. Strange creatures appear not only in the distant forests but even in the cities, the Bers' own strongholds.
Amidst this chaos arises Linden, a young commoner woman who dares oppose a Ber with forbidden magic of her own. She is joined by Rianor, the High Ruler of Qynnsent, who defies what the Bers call a noble's greatest responsibility. The two tamper with the half-ridiculed, half-forbidden idea of science and believe that there is more to science than the Bers and mentors would have people think.

Dominick, a young mentor, one of the priestly class who keep people from thinking aberrant thoughts, starts to question the Ber world even as he is trying to save it.

Merley, a young Ber woman who sees things that others cannot, saves a condemned boy and seeks out a reprobate old witch.

As these young people choose the paths rarely taken and make paths of their own, others try to pull their strings and shape the world according to their own wills.

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