The Stone Mages rule the huge deserts of red sand. The vast coastlines are ruled by Sky Wardens. Magic is everywhere but not all have the power to control and direct it. Any child found to have magical ability is sent to the Haunted City to be trained in the Change.
On the coast of the Strand, Sal and his father arrive in the small, apparently-normal town of Fundelry, where the locals are suspicious of newcomers and of anyone who stands out or appears different. Sal and his father are on the run from an unnamed someone or something. When a local bully attacks Sal, he is rescued by Shilly and her teacher, Lodo. Lodo is marked with mysterious tattoos and seems to know a lot more about Sal than Sal knows about himself.
Sal's father wants to stay but the Sky Wardens will be coming and Sal needs to learn what connection Lodo had with his mother and what fate seems to have been chosen for him before he was even born.