The book is set in the Inkan Empire at the time of the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. It tells the story of twins, a brother and a sister who come of age at a time when their orderly and secure world is disrupted by a handful of Europeans under the command of Francisco Pizarro. The first chapters portray the rich culture and mythology of the empire. The focus then sifts to life in a rural village where ancient beliefs predate the rule of the Inkas. The conflict between the Inkas and the Europeans culminates in a revolt by Inka Manco Capac. After months of struggling to understand the meaning of the white man's conquest, the twins meet in a hidden city in the empire and choose separate paths which honor their own tradition.