Abandoned as an infant, Aza lives with her adoptive family at the inn they run in the kingdom of Ayortha. Considered ugly, with her pale complexion, blood red lips, black hair, and large frame, the taunting and gawking of the inn patrons causes Aza to shy away from others and feel self-concious. Her only reprieve comes from singing - in a land where song is an integral part of society, Aza's voice is an undeniable gift. When tending to a guest room one day, Aza accidently stumbles upon a new way to use her talent - she discovers the ability to project her voice - or 'illusing,' as she calls it - to sound from anywhere in the room, a talent that proves to be very rare and coveted.
At age fifteen, when the duchess of Olixo, a frequent guest at the inn, unexpectedly invites Aza to accompany her to the Ayorthaian king's wedding, she finds herself amid oppourtunities she never imagined. King Oscaro's bride, Ivi, befriends Aza, presenting to her the position of the queen's lady-in-waiting, with the promise of land, riches, and the chance to hold the title of Lady; thinking she would be able to help her family with the money, she accepts the offer. But when misfortune strikes the king, Queen Ivi's true nature is revealed when she blackmails Aza into illusing for her at the king's 'Healing Sing,' and at any point thereafter when singing was required. As if that wasn't enough, unrest and backlash against Ivi and Aza rises throughout the kingdom, after the queen's unfair rule outlaws singing, exiles birds from the palace, and refuses aid to people in need.
Despairing and still yearning for the acceptance of those around her, Aza finds solace in her blossoming friendship with the king's nephew, Prince Ijori, until disaster strikes when a confrontation between Ivi and several of her attendants leads to the revelation of the illusing deal between the queen and her lady-in-waiting - Ivi twists the blame onto Aza, and after cruel accusations are made about her possible half-non-human ancestry and some unwitting magic takes place, Aza is thrown into the dungeon.
This report prepared by Jessica Sayers