A coming-of-age yarn, the first independent novel from veteran writer-editor Silverberg since The Alien Years (1998). Centuries ago, the tall, thin, technologically advanced Masters invaded and subdued the squat, muscular Folk of Homeworld, parceling out the planet into huge estates and pressing the Folk into service while the intelligent native Indigenes remained aloof and indifferent. Now, Masters learn three languages—Master, Folk, and Indigene—as a matter of course. Fifteen-year-old Master Joseph, heir to House Keilloran on the southern continent Helikis, pays an extended visit to House Getfen on the northern continent High Manza. One night, suddenly and astonishingly, the Folk rise in rebellion and set about slaughtering all the Masters. Joseph escapes with the assistance of a kindly, loyal servant woman. He flees into the wilderness hoping for aid at a neighboring House, but injures himself. A native noctambulo brings him to an Indigene village. The Indigenes possess no medical skills whatsoever, and thus Joseph's meager aptitude for dressing wounds and straightening fractures is greeted with awed acclaim. Eventually, he learns that the neighboring estate was also destroyed in the rebellion, which seems to have engulfed most of the continent. Joseph resolves to walk home—a mere 10,000 miles. Among his further adventures: servant Folk and Folk who serve no Masters; near-starvation; first love; capture and interrogation as a spy. Worse yet: will he have a House and family to return to?
Silverberg handles his protagonist's absorbing material and spiritual odyssey from naïve youth to weary journeyman with quiet, precise wisdom.