SPOILER ALERT – THE FOLLOWING PLOT OVERVIEW AND CHAPTER SUMMARIES CONTAIN IMPORTANT PLOT DETAILS INCLUDING THE ENDING.
The story is narrated by Verne Golding III, the seventeen-year-old heir to the Tibutan throne. Verne must decide whether she is willing to initiate a coup against her mother who has caused civil unrest by denying the existence of Typhon’s final tempest. The rogue storm has escaped the bonds of the compass and threatens Longfield’s very survival.
The story opens with Verne’s admission that she is willing to kill her mother because she believes she is stealing her gift. For the rest of part one Verne recounts the incidents that brought her to this point. She remembers growing up in the palace with her mother and father and recalls the jealousy that tore them apart. She remembers being tested by the high priestess for her gift, a mighty power which only the descendent of the First Mother can inherit. The high priestess promised that hers would be a mighty gift, proving she is a woman of balance destined to save Tibuta. However, her mother insisted she lie about the results of the test.
Verne explains the circumstances that caused her mother’s transformation from a good and just leader to a despot. The king’s younger brother Kratos returned to Tibuta after the war between Gregaria and Caspius of 2978 AB (after the birth of the First Mother in the Tibutan reckoning) and spoke of the need to build an army to protect Tibuta from the tempest. Over time, he gained the people’s support and Ashylah feared he intended to take the throne so punished him by sending him to a sanatorium. Then one day he simply disappeared. Afterwards, the island nation was plagued by increasing civil unrest instigated by Kratos’s rebel forces, the Shark’s Teeth.
Verne also tells of how she came to know that her mother was stealing her gift: its sudden appearance at the tournament when her mother left the stadium, the appearance of blood spots on her sheets when the high priestess put her under a spell.
Part two starts where we left off in chapter one. It is late in the summer of 2999 AB and Verne is seventeen. Her mother is stealing her gift. They are at odds with one another about the tempest. Verne is contemplating whether or not to kill her.
Verne’s best friend Harryet, her combat trainer Drayk, and her cousin Hero provide the emotional support she needs to endure her mother’s increasing cruelty and become her accomplices. Verne tries to gain the army’s support to overthrow the Queen but the army’s strategos, Petra, is reluctant to turn.
When a woman washes up on Tibuta’s wall speaking of a storm that has destroyed her entire island, fear of the final tempest is confirmed. Rather than acknowledge the tempest, the Queen has the woman executed in a spectacular display which only provides further proof that damnation is near. Verne demonstrates her duplicitous nature, undermining her mother while appearing to support her in attempt to win the people’s trust.
The arrival of a young woman called Adelpha who claims to be Verne’s sister puts Verne’s right of succession into doubt. However, Verne suspects her mother has no intention of giving either of them the throne. She makes Drayk her lover though she fears what will happen when he reaches the age of forty and is reborn elsewhere. Their intimacy is overshadowed by the limited time they have together.
The queen invites 200 foreign soldiers into Tibuta to help the army conduct a “cleansing” of her enemies, confirming Verne’s fear that her mother has lost site of her responsibility as a leader.
Part three opens with Verne’s last attempt to win Petra’s support. Petra is adamant that only 200 soldiers are on their way to Tibuta. When an army of nearly two thousand men arrive in Tibuta, Verne knows her nation has been sacrificed and Petra finally starts to doubt the queen.
Verne joins the rebel army and launches an assassination attempt against her mother which inevitably fails. The rebels retreat to the temple and prepare for a counterattack. Verne dreams of how she will assassinate her mother. The battle descends upon them but they are overpowered. The high priestess fire –her source of power — is extinguished and many of Verne’s allies are killed including Hero, who is slain by his brother.
Verne follows the steps of her dream and, with Drayk by her side, goes to kill her mother. At the last moment she is unable to strike, proving she does not have “the madness” like the Golding women who came before her. She and Drayk are captured and her mother reveals that Drayk is Adelpha’s father. She suggests that Drayk and the high priestess have simply been manipulating Verne in attempt to seize power for themselves. Verne doesn’t know what to believe. Drayk provides a diversion that allows Verne to run away. She leaves Tibuta determined to start a new life and new beginnings.