From publisher blurb:
ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a village called Shamblington, in the midst of a fell and forbidding forest, rarely visited by outsiders.
It has been said that long ago, there were roses in that forest, that the barbed and tangled regions known now as thornwoods were places of joy, until the shadows came and the roses fell. So it has been said, and most have laughed bitterly at the saying.
There were three, though. Three who did not laugh, but thought on that tale with sad faces. Three heroes, who were the mighty of Shamblington. For Shamblington was ruled by the Baron Ruen. And it was protected by the sword of Dame Enia. And the wards all around it were crafted and maintained by the mystic, Xia.
And these three heroes heard tell of some other piece to that tale, some word that gave them hope. That led them to believe that the shadows might be lit, and there might be roses in the forest again. And so they drew on their armour, drew up their powers and weapons, and went forth into the thorns last month, promising a quick sortie of only a few days.
They have not returned.
Adren, the brother of Baron Ruen, has claimed the baronial seat, ignoring the claim of Ruen's heir Urte.
Xia left much unfinished. An apprentice named Rha, left without clear instructions, waits in the strange home of the mystic. With Rha waits Nox, a youth with skin like dark burnt brick. And another changeling child - a golden-skinned youth named Aura - entered town only moments ago, coming to the manor for answers.
Dame Enia's squire Marta and her sister Lali wait, too, at the watchtower, and have just caught sight of the golden-skinned traveller.