The world is under increasing threat from as yet undiscovered sources of icefire, but all the people who have answers are cut off from the authorities, kings or councils, with the power to mobilise the scientists and armies to keep the world safe.
Young meteorology student Javes is stuck in the remote desert of the north. The area bristles with technology of an ancient past, but he cannot tell anyone about it because roads and telegraph lines have been cut by bad weather and invading bandits.
Lana, a fellow student, is on her way to meet him, but Aranian soldiers raid the bus that she's travelling on. She is taken to the capital to serve at the king's court.
King Orik of Arania seems hell-bent on destroying the two neighbouring countries that have poked fun at Arania for over forty years.
No one is watching the skies. No one is tallying up the disasters. No one is searching for the source of icefire, even though it will kill the whole world if left unchecked.
The referendum question is simple: does Earth join gamra, the organisation that governs the Exchange, the FTL space travel network?
While a “yes” vote would mean big changes, a “no” vote would leave Earth isolated and alone to face those waiting to fill the void, and those dark forces are already on the prowl.
Cory is one of the few people who can see the big picture, not just those campaigning for the “no” vote, but the off-Earth forces that wait behind them, but he and his team went on a holiday to New Zealand and communication has been mysteriously cut off.
Someone is taking control of communication channels, bringing the "yes" campaign to its knees, and by the time Cory is aware that the race is on, the only avenue open to him is a hard-hitting, negative campaign that requires him to go into the lion’s den: the homelands of the obscenely rich members of the Pretoria Cartel, where gun-crazy hunters, lions and elephants are just the start of his problems.