1899, Sand Island, Wisconsin.
Bridget Lederle resides in the lighthouse she's tended since her father died. Here, on the rocky shore of Lake Suprior, she's alone with the bitter ignominy of her birth, the shame of her love child's death, and the ghost of a mother she never really knew . . .
That all changes on the wintry night she rescues a mysterious, charismatic stranger whose boat is nearly dashed upon the rocks. After she's nursed him back to health, he tells her a fantastical tale . . . of another world, where somehow only she can save the beleaguered Empress from sorcerous plottings to usurp the throne.
His tale is wildly fanciful, yet Bridget feels somehow drawn to his world, to the empire of Isavalta. Kalami, her handsome, charming patient, transports her with him from Lake Superior to a dazzling world that seems like a dream . . .
But if Isavalta is a dream, Bridget's new life is a nightmare. Caught in a magical crossfire between the powerful Dowager Empress, her daughter-in-law, an the sorcerers who serve their mistresses and other more subtle ends, she doesn't know whom to trust, whom to beware . . . With the fate of an empire at stake and her heart torn by conflicting desires, she becomes a reluctant player in a deadly game of politics and magic with rules as hard to untangle as the knots in a silken tassel or the threads of a woven rug.
As she attempts to see beyond the masks of power and discover truth in a world where magical spells can take almost any form, each hour she spends in the luxury of Isavalta's court bunds her more tightly in the seductive embrace of secrets from her own past and of unfulfilled yearnings she can't deny. A stranger in this bedazzling place, she must find a path to salvation - for herself and for her new, otherworldly home - but that path seems rockier than the Lake Superior shore she left behind.