In the lands of Saranthium, the pact between human and serpent is failing. Rogue serpents are attacking villages, and in the city of Salmut rumours claim that the banished god Azoth has returned to resurrect his empire of slavery. An orphan at five, a thief and a survivor, Shaan lives in a whorehouse and works in the serpent yards of Salmut. She dreams of joining the Riders, the elite warriors who patrol the skies from the backs of the serpents. But Shaan's dreams are haunted by visions of a burning city and a voice that whispers in an ancient tongue. Meanwhile, in the harsh desert of the Clans, Tallis has grown up under the burden of his difference. When he faces being made an outcast, his mother reveals the truth of his birth - it is a secret that propels him away from all he has known and onto a journey to understand the unnatural power locked within him. Drawn together, Shaan and Tallis are ensnared in the resurrection of an ancient conflict. But on whose side? That of the serpents or the people?