Aleks Vasin is the youngest of four brothers, each with his path mapped out. But Aleks doesn't want to work in his father's shop and live with his family in a village in the westernmost corner of Siberene. And when he hears his parents fretting about money, he decides to save them the cost of his keep and leave.
First he heads south - though everyone tells him not to - to Rudavin, headquarters of the kingsguard, and he signs up for the army, little knowing what brutality it entails. After only a few weeks, Aleks realizes that this garrison is full of liars and thieves; he's signed away four years of his life to a commander who steals his money and a captain who's already hurt Aleks's beloved horse. This is not a noble destiny.
After a brutal beating, Aleks escapes, hoping to find safety and a new life somewhere in the north. And there, this deserter finds love, adventure, and a skyship in which he might just prove himself a hero after all - if he can evade the soldiers who seek to capture him.