Peter Dickinson’s books cover a wide range of genres, styles and topics, but he can be depended on to craft a vivid world, fine characters, and a gripping story. This is no exception.
Tron is a young priest in an ancient kingdom resembling Egypt, but one where the gods they worship (unique to this story) have great power through their many priests and perhaps actual power as well. In contrast, the kings and other royalty have lost much of their power to the priests. As the story opens, Tron is at a ceremony of renewal for the King in the Temple of Gdu, his own sect, and he’s given a vision and task he feels is from the god Gdu. A Blue Hawk is on the dais with the King and priests. Tron has been designated The Goat, meaning anything he decides to do can’t be questioned. Tron leaves his fellows, goes up on the dais, and takes the Blue Hawk onto his arm and out of the temple. One consequence of this, he soon finds out, is that the King must die, as he overhears the head priests discuss how it will be done. Tron is troubled by this, but sure of his vision. Tron is tasked with training the Blue Hawk, and taken to a remote, empty temple to do that. He and the hawk bond, as they learn together.
While there, Tron meets the new King, son of the one he sent to death, and surprisingly, they become friends. The young King enlists Tron’s help in keeping his throne, and wresting power from the priests, in whom Tron has lost faith. He becomes the King’s secret partner, entering with him the hidden passages throughout the temples and palace. The King sends Tron on a perilous journey down the mighty river that waters the desert kingdom, and Tron barely escapes going over a giant waterfall at the southern border. When he and the Blue Hawk manage to climb out of the river canyon, he finds new friends in the mountains and learns his journey is only beginning.