In 1070, King Duncan's Scotland was a rugged, cold country for Merca, thirteen year old orphan girl and her little brother Dag to enter as prospective slaves. They are quite expectedly bought by a shrewish woman who rules her meek husband as well as the two children. They survive nearly a year of life without hope, and finally, Merca, fired by a desire for revenge on Scotland's king for causing her parents' deaths, plans an escape. The children wander over the sparse countryside where they encounter Thomas of the Knife, a killer whose consuming urge is ""to kill a king."" An abrupt contrast is formulated by the author when the two (now half-dead) children are picked up and taken to the queen who raises them in the palace. In the end, Merca becomes a heroine when she saves the king from Thomas' knife. The children are unrealistically portrayed as too powerful for either their years or their condition. This is especially true of Merca, who trails saintliness as well. Not up to the author's City of the Golden House (1963, p. 11, J-11).