Long recovered from the ravages of the Riftwar, the land and the people of the Kingdom of the Isles thrive on the bounty of good times. Nicholas, youngest son of Prince Arutha of Krondor is intelligent and gifted, but vastly inexperienced in worldly matters. In hopes of hardening him, his father sends him and his squire, Harry, to live at rustic Castle Crydee to learn of life beyond the halls of privilege. Thus begins the most harrowing experience of their young lives. Within weeks of Nicholas's arrival, Crydee is viciously attacked by assailants unknown. The result: murder, massive destruction, and the abduction of two young noblewomen, friends to the prince. And Crydee isn't the only town that's been hit - towns up and down the coast have suffered the same merciless devastation. From out of the wreckage two facts become clear. The raiders have come from the distant Sunset Islands, home to pirates of every stripe - and possibly even farther away than that. But more significant, these are no ordinary pirates: their mission is connected to dark magical forces that have threatened the Kingdom before. As brother to the future king, Nicholas feels compelled to follow the abductors and rescue those taken from Crydee - but the threat he ultimately faces is one that places the fate of all of his people in his inexperienced lands.