The plot begins five years after Heartfire. Alvin and Peggy lost therir baby, but she is now pregnant with a second child and both are worried sick that it will come early again due to the stress of their lives. She awaits Alvin in Hatrack River, having sent him to Nueva Barcelona. There, Alvi n is destined to heal of woman of yellow fever, inadvertantly spreading the fever across the populace. Here is the crux of the conflict in their marriage. Peggy knows the outcome of all of ALvin’s choices, but will always encourage him to take the path that leads to life and the Crystal City. Alvin resents this, wanting to know the whole truth to her visions so he can choose his own path.
The struggle to free the slaves is advanced again in this novel, where Alvin takes the slaves and some of the population on Nueva Barcelona across a crystal bridge that he makes with the Red Prophet across the river into the county that Verily Cooper and Abe Lincoln (in a special guest appearance) have set up as their own. This will allow them to make their own laws about slavery and slave-finders. Here, the bricks for the Crystal City begin to be laid, and Alvin realises that people will not need makery to contribute – even felling trees is all part of the work that needs to be done.
All is definitely not well in this novel – many of the characters have taken darker turn. We see real cracks in Alvin and Peggy’s marriage. Verily Cooper begins to resent the fact that his life and work centre around Alvin and Calvin continues to be a mischief. Although Peggy sends him to help Alvin free the slaves – and he does – he still takes every opportunity to attempt to prove he is superior to Alvin, even going off on a quest to conquer the Mexicans.
In the final parts of the book, Calvin and his friends arrive at the Crystal City and make plans to stay – much to Alvin’s chagrin. There is only one (as yet unwritten) book left in the series – this brotherly conflict is going to have to reach a resolution.