Astrid Berensen, a highly intelligent and volatile teen, is good at solving problems. Using her intelligence and dogged determination, she has learned how to make replicas of crystals that were used in 1300 BC to move a colony of persecuted worshippers from Egypt to the world of Kemet.
Astrid is also very good at creating problems. Her grief from her mother’s disappearance, her periodic rages, and her guilt over her twin sister’s death have estranged her from her father and kept her from making friends.
Ignoring everything around her, Astrid concentrates on making crystals in a make-shift lab at the Peltdown Institute, a residential school for savants and gifted Asperger autists. Fearing that her life is in danger from the success she is beginning to achieve with the crystals, but also with the hope she may find her mother and a world more likely to accept her, Astrid and her unwelcome traveling companion, Raymond, a be-smitten, whiny chess-obsessed fellow student run away. Avoiding capture from some mysterious assailants, they use Astrid’s crystals to transport themselves to the arid world of Kemet. After crossing the Dustlands, they arrive in Amarna, an ancient city gone to ruin. There they find that Astrid's mother in prison and their dream of finding a better world has turned into a nightmare.