The age of aether still reigns; its pale glow illuminating the land. All bear the mark of aether's extraordinary influence, except the changelings, banished to Einfell, that strange land untouched by the Age of Industry, that lay at England's troubled heart. When Great Grandmistress Alice Meynell, ruthless matriarch of the Great Guild of Telegraphers, brings her son to Invercombe, west of Bristol, she expects him to die there. Though her power and grace are legendary, not even she can halt her son's disease. In desperation she travels to Einfell, to seek favour from one who once trusted her. And Ralph is cured. Far away from the filth of industrial London, he is drawn away from his family responsibilities to the world of nature and to a fisherman's daughter Marion Price. Together they plan to run away, to defy the rule of the Guilds, even to change the world and how it sees itself. But Alice will not let love stand in the way of her in her insatiable lust for power - nor the very land she professes to love - even if it means plunging England into a long and bloody civil war. An astonishing work of imagination, Ian R. Macleod has created a truly original world, one that is strangely recognizable and yet utterly new, an England made of magic, but set amongst familiar hills and cities.