This is the story of how a young and skilled army captain finds out he is heir to the kingdom. Tavi, as he has been known for most of his life, is the nephew of a farmer woman (steadholder) named Isana. He is now called Captain Rufus Scipio and is a major player in the war against a different race of people known as the Canim people. His lover, Kitai, is also a warrior of a different race as well known as the Marat. He learns that Isana is actually his mother. His father was Gaius Septimus. He is not a bastard orphan. His father was the crown and legitimately married to his mother. His mother had used her supernatural powers ( known as watercraft) to prevent his growth, hinder his powers, and change his appearance so that he would not be hunted and killed. His bodyguard ( also known as singulare) tells him the truth right before he heads into battle with his legion. His name is Gauis Ocatvian.
The book has two stories within one book. A subplot is of the grandfather, who takes himself to Kalare to kill all the people of that land. He lies to Amare and Benard about his true reasons for going to Kalare. They only find this out as they watch Kalare explode and people run around hopeless trying to escape fiery deaths.
Tavi, as captain, has an opponent within his own people (the Alerans). Senator Anos, is putting people directly in the path of death and sabotaging projects because he wants to take over. He has a spy named Valiar Marcus who is actually Tavi's right hand man. Valiar Marcus is having second thoughts. He finds the captain respectable and worthy of honesty and cringes when he lies. His real name is Fidelias Marcus. Lady Aquitaine wants him to kill the captain. He convinces her not to kill him but to set him up so Senator Anos can depose him.
Senator Anos orders Captain Rufus Scipio (aka Tavi) to kill all the people who were freed from slavery and forced to serve on the opposing army. Captain Scipio stalls for time. While he stalls, he sneaks away to meet with the leader of Canim named Nasaug. Nasaug agrees that his army will leave peacefully if they release the prisoner Varg. Captain Scipio gets nabbed on the way back by the Senator's men. He is charged with treason. He is sent to another bureaucrat to await trial. Luckily this man admires him and after his mother produces the ring around her neck to prove that he is in fact royalty. The man releases him.
Captain Scipio breaks Varg out of prison and smuggles him to Nassaug but Nassaug wants out of the deal. Varg injures his son Nassaug because he finds the captain to be an honorable man. Varg tells him if he can negotiate them safe passage out of here, they will leave peacefully. Scipio gives his word even though he has no idea how to accomplish this.
Then he returns and challenges Senator Anos to a duel with the rights of Gauis Octavian. By Aleran laws, he is allowed to make this challenge after his identity is verified. Senator Anos chooses his singulare Navaris to fight in his stead. As challenger, Gauis Octavian ( Scipio) must fight himself. He is not as skilled as Navarice. However, towards the end of the fight, he can feel Navaris moves and decides to trigger an emotional response. He tugs at her father wound, a wound he himself has. He suggests that her father would never be proud of and embrace a blood thirsty murderer. Navaris loses control. With his ability to feel her emotions, he senses it and takes advantage of this opportunity to kill her. Although he emerges as champion of the duel, he is still at risk. Marcus has been ordered to kill him. However, Marcus changes his mind when he goes to shoot the captain he instead sends poison to Senator Anos and Lady Aquitaine ( in her washer woman disguise). However, when he goes to check on the bodies, Lady Aquitaine's body is missing.
The story ends with Gaius Octavian leaving the land because people will want to kill him and he still has to learn his powers of furycraft. His mother, Isana, the most powerful watercraft woman is left behind wondering how it would feel to have to bury her son.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked the thorough characterization of this boy who becomes a man with many names. I didn't like the subplot. It was confusing.
Best scene in story:
The scene where Captain Scipio tells his mother that he is scared on the boat. He is a criminal, a fugitive, and still working to save the land and his people. He is braving leviathans and other supernatural risks and for this one scene he's just a little boy who always wanted a mother.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked the sheer honesty that Captain Scipio represents. He seems to be the archetype for honor and justice. He frees witchmen from chains. He fights for his own people's lives even when they are against him.