AD 1404 Scottish lowlands
Sixteen-year-old Ember Morrow dreams of a life in which “she could live by her sword and her courage.” The daughter of a nobleman, a life of marriage and motherhood lies before her. Her only hope of escape is the debt of her life her father owes to the Conatus. When her birth didn’t progress as it should have and both mother and child were near certain death, their lives were saved by the sudden appearance of a Conatus trained midwife. Unfortunately her services came with a price. Ember was pledged to the Conatus during her sixteenth tear and her arrival at their keep “is considered a harbinger of the Order’s future. One way or the other.”
When her old friend Alistair Hart arrives with Barrow Hess to escort Ember to the Conatus’ keep at Terrmunn, Lord Morrow tries his best to delay her inevitable journey. After a fight with Morrow’s best three men, Hess prevails and preparations are quickly made to leave within the hour.
Upon their arrival at Terrmunn, they are greeted by the Conatus and a neighboring lord named Mackenzie. Ember is relieved to be out of the carriage and is slightly worried about her older sister Agnes, who was ill throughout the trip. Lord Morrow is thrilled to learn that Lord Mackenzie has a bachelor son. He hopes to work out a deal that will satisfy the Conatus and secure a husband for Ember. Alistair tells Ember she will have to undergo a trial but he is unable to provide any details. Ember just hopes that she will be able to choose the path she wishes to take.
The morning of the trials, the initiates meet Father Michael who explains the process. Every person will choose which path they wish to follow; craft, knowledge or war and must pass the test to continue or they will be asked to leave. Even after seeing all of the books of knowledge, Ember knows that war is the path she must follow. With the Guard watching, Barrow leads Ember to the beginning of her path and gives her a lantern and a dagger. Finding herself in the wine cellar, she quickly realizes she is not alone. Ember kills the revenant and sees the way out of the cellar. Father Michael greets her at the end and lets her know she was the only initiate to choose the path of war. He tells her a bit about the mission of the Guards and offers to answer any questions. He then takes her to the barracks to begin her new life.
The Guard commander, Lukasz, begins by asking who amongst them will become Ember’s mentor. Sorcha, the only woman in the Guard, is about to offer when Lord Morrow comes barreling through the door. Infuriated by her choice, he begs her to reconsider and marry. When Ember refuses, he accuses Conatus of bewitching her. Barrow steps forward and say that he is going to be her mentor and orders Morrow to leave. He does and Ember fears Barrow offered to make her father depart. Having never been a mentor before, he says it is time to become a teacher and will train Ember. She is thrilled.
Having dinner one last time for the foreseeable future with her family, Ember feels that she is at her own funeral. Agnes continually sobs and her father attempts a last ditch effort to forge a marriage contract with Mackenzie, only to be shot down. Making a drunken scene, Morrow accuses Conatus of being witches and dinner is over. Ember tells Agnes goodbye and Alistair offers to show her to her room. Barrow stops him and says that Ember is his responsibility.
Showing her to her room, Ember notices its sparseness and that her life is finally changing. Sorcha will have to show Ember some things about dressing and Barrow leaves her for the night. Her past is now her past and her future is with the Guard. Setting into her new life, Ember begins her training with a passion. But as she discovers what Conatus is really about, Ember knows that she made the right decision.
Will Ember make it as a member of the Guard? What happens when the secrets of Conatus are discovered by someone who will hold it against them? What are Alistair Hart’s true motives regarding Ember? Will Ember finally lose her heart to love and will her feelings be reciprocated? And what choices must be made when a member of the Guard invites dark magic in and sides must be chosen?
In this thrilling prequel to the Nightshade trilogy, the beginnings of the Witches’ War is told. Ember’s story is concluded in Rise out on January 8, 2013.