Mark Cornwall, a scholar, finds and steals a page of a manuscript hidden in a book. The manuscript hints at secrets hidden in the wasteland to the northwest. Oliver, a Goblin of the Rafters at the university, witnesses the theft and warns Mark that he is now in danger. Gib, one of the People of the Marshes, and his friend Hal, one of the People of the Hills, join in the journey to the wasteland, as do other pilgrims they meet along the way. Their world is one in which magic and mythical beings exist, but there are hints that there are things going on in the wasteland that even magic may not explain.
There was very little character development in this book and the dialogue was painfully stilted. The author seemed more at ease describing the landscape , but the world is never developed past anyone's sightlines. The nature of the quest that the characters are undertaking is too nebulous to be compelling, and once the mysteries of the wasteland are revealed, they don't make any particular sense. This novel felt like a bunch of story elements thrown together and then written on autopilot. There is something oddball about this, but it's not enough to make it satisfying. This is the first Simak book I've read, but I'm willing to assume that his better-known works must be superior to this.