Having fled the tyrannical rule of her father, sixteen year old Kat now lives among her mother's people - a society that is joyful and caring, as well as conformist and bound by superstition. Kat has lived her whole life by the sea, but this new world is all stone and sky. It is bare and spare and high, ringed by mountains.
Kat has spent one year dutifully preparing for her initiation rite, a ceremony that involves a live bear. Kat is frightened and uncertain, but only by completing the ritual can she be accepted into the circle of women.
But what of the young blind man she feels herself drawn to, who is handsom and artistic but also belligerent and scornful? And what of gentle Nall, the man she left behind?