Rowan has a reputation, his feats against man and beast heralding him as one of the best fighters at home and abroad. It's a reputation he knows he doesn't deserve. When he returns from self-imposed exile, his father entreats him to enter the Trials for the crown. He accepts, for winning the crown is a chance to redeem his hidden failures and earn the reputation he's been given. Hiding his doubt, Rowan gathers a group of allies and kin and begins the journey to the capital.
Brynd has a reputation for thievery, his ability to slide through shadows and relieve men and women of their precious valuables marking him as one of the best. He despises it. Even his smart mouth can't get him out of trouble. Forced to do unsavory tasks for the magistrate, he can't find a way to escape his burgeoning debt until a stranger arrives and offers him a chance to free himself- if he has the courage to cross the dreaded Deadvault again. If he survives, he may gain what he most desires: the chance to start over.
Kivrin has no reputation - and she prefers to keep it that way. Weary of wandering alone in disguise, Kivrin spies a group of warriors preparing to travel the desert wasteland. Now she must make a choice. If Kivrin can return to the place of her childhood, perhaps she can discover who her parents were and why they abandoned her. But if she's discovered for what she truly is, she may be abandoned to the very beings she's been running from.
Harried by desert creatures with an unnatural interest in their party, the company will face not only the deadly flaura and fauna along their path but the consequences of allowing a stranger to journey with them - a stranger whose secrets may kill them all. Before the end Rowan will face an enemy long thought dead, the demon who killed his sister and threatens to take the one person away from him he shouldn't even care for - a woman who could cost him the crown before he can earn it.