"Stewart's beautifully lucid, poetic prose makes for a narrative of commanding power and enchantment that echoes the best of Le Guin and Tolkien." — Booklist
"An astonishing, wise, beautiful work, full of the terror and wonder and love and power of life and legend intertwined." — Locus
The island people of Clouds End are united by their history, an abundance of tales relating heroic struggles and the emergence of their land from the dreaded Mist. The preservation of their traditions is entrusted to a tribal Witness, who foretells the future and enshrines the past with stories of memorable lives. Young Brook longs for adventures that will culminate in her role as a Witness, and her journey begins when Jo, a shapeshifting "haunt" who sometimes assumes the guise of a seagull, forms her exact double. "Twinning" is a fearful fate since only one of the two can survive and both usually come to untimely ends.
The end seems very near at hand with the sudden pressure of an imminent attack by the forces of a mad emperor from beyond the sea. The threat forces Jo and Brook into an uneasy alliance to defend Clouds End. Together with other young islanders, they set sail to confront the forces of evil and fulfill their destiny.