Over three years have passed since the reappearance of the starship Phoenix
- the same ship which two centuries before left an isolated colony of humans to fend for themselves on the world of the volatile atevi
Since that time, humans have lived in exile on the island of Mospheira, using a single diplomat, the paidhi, to trade advanced technology for the continued peace and safety of its people.
But the unexpected return of the Phoenix has shattered forever the fragile, carefully maintained political balance of these two nearly incompatible races. For the captains of the Phoenix offer the atevi something the Mospheiran humans never could - access to the stars.