Firethorn flees a life of drudgery to live alone in the forest, relying on her knowledge of herb lore to survive. She returns transformed, indebted to the god who saved her life, and blessed -- or cursed -- with uncanny abilities and a nagging sense of destiny. After a few nights of dalliance with Sire Galan, a high-caste warrior on his way to join the king's army, Firethorn seizes the chance to go with him, only to find she has exchanged one form of servitude for another.
The army readies for war in the vast encampment of the Marchfield, where men prey on each other and women dare go nowhere alone. Among the lowborn harlots and the highborn dames of the camp, Firethorn learns to use her gifts as a healer, venturing into realms of dream and shadow.
Desire drew Firethorn and Sire Galan together, but love binds them -- a love that has no place in the arrangement between a warrior and his sheath. When Galan makes a wager with disastrous consequences, Firethorn uses her gifts to intervene in his fate and learns just how hard it can be to tell honor from dishonor, justice from vengeance.
Sarah Micklem has written an extraordinary tale -- at once magical and earthbound, beautiful and violent. She immerses readers in a remarkably imagined world where gods are meddlesome, the highborn uphold their privileges with casual brutality, and a woman's only recourse may be the strength she finds within.
Read an Excerpt
I watched for the Midsummer's eve bonfire from my lair on Bald Pate. I meant to return to the village a year to the day I'd left for the Kingswood. But why should the day matter? The seasons go round the year and never come back, for, as everyone knows, time moves in a spiral, not a circle. To persist in folly made me no less a fool. Once I'd counted myself brave for venturing into the Kingswood alone; now I wondered if it would not have been braver to stay among people. Solitude had withered around me like a husk. Yet I stayed until the bonfire released me.
On Midsummer morning I walked down through the... see more