In sixth-century Kent, lightning only strikes when wicked women will it.
A dead man's body lies in a lake. Seventeen-year-old Ardelle stands accused of murdering him. She has not yet shed the innocence of childhood, yet the dark boatman in the realm of the dead finds her guilty of trespassing on his domain. Her sentence: a lifetime of suffering at the hands of mortal men, not least of which her fellow "sisters in red" condemned to imprisonment for revealing the gifts of air, fire, earth, and water to those who would abuse them.
For as long as Ardelle refuses to surrender, death's intrigues threaten to drive her to madness—if the machinations of the living do not kill her outright. Where the king wields Ardelle and her sisters against his enemies in the name of righteousness, his daughter, Myrah, wields romantic love and affection like knives in a bid to win Ardelle's personal loyalty. All the while, the dark boatman's hand creeps across the land, first taking everyone Ardelle loves, then everyone she knows, then simply everyone.
Submit to his will, child, or watch as humanity fades into dark oblivion.