Crude Quebec of 1671 as setting for a powerful historical novel of exceptional sweep and depth. Paul Denys, returned to his family from the courtly life in Paris, finds for a restless spirit in the task of mastering colonial policy and the heroic assignment of conquering the wilderness on an expedition to Hudson Bay. In sharp contrast is the humility and acceptance of the Jesuit priest who led the expedition. Heartbreakingly difficult adventure ending in a listless ""river and empty sea"", but through it Paul learns to love the wilderness and to respect his Indian companions. Eventually, after return to civilization and again seeking peace in the wilderness, he becomes confidant and adviser of Frontenac, and fathers a half breed son who will carry out his aims.