**Spoiler Alert!** If you plan on reading the book, do not continue reading this review. ... Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you.
After ten years of battle and war, Tier is finally on his way home. Coming to a village a few days from home, thoughts of a warm meal and comfortable bed are waylaid when he passes a pyre on fire - with a dead Traveler in the center of the blaze. Thoughts of leaving are reinforced when he walks into the local inn only to come upon the "trial" of the dead traveler's sixteen year-old sister, Seraph, also a Traveler, a Raven of the Clan of Isolda the Silent. He feels her magic stirring when she becomes furious, for the innkeeper believes she cannot pay the outrage sum against her. She is now being sold to whomsoever will pay the wage. Tier comes to her rescue, and they quickly leave the village. But the nobleman who had intended on buying Seraph for himself has every intention of taking her back... And loses.
Tier has every intention of helping her find her another Traveler family, bought plans are waylaid again when he gets home to find his mother abed and sick. He has the bakery to run, even though his sister and brother-in-law had been doing just fine. He's asked to stay a few weeks at least, so spend time with his mother before her passing, but the more time he spends at home, the more he wants to get out. Restless after so many years of battle, the thought of a monotonous life is too much to bear. And he comes to Seraph's rescue once again. After yet more harrassement from Tier's sister, Seraph's anger gets the better of her and unleashes a wave of destruction in the front room of the bakery, breaking everything. Once they were married, he buys a plot of land believed to be of little value, and becomes a farmer.
Twenty years and three children later, Seraph is happy, even though the guilt of eschewing her people's responsibility ways on her, even through her little family's having rough times. Tier has gone on another winter's hunting trip, and he's late in returning home. When a hunter arrives, bringing news that he believes Tier to be dead, Seraph is getting the feeling that something is most definitely not right. Now she must tell her children what exactly they are. There are 5 Orders of the Travelers; her children were all born into different Orders. Something that had never before happened.
Unearthing the bones, Seraph is sure that the bones do not belong to her husband. Another Raven, Hennea, finds them and explains what she believes is happening. Rinnie, her youngest child and only daughter, gets kidnapped, and all four: Seraph, her son's Jes and Lehr and Raven Hennea, discover where she is and get her back, leaving her with Tier's sister. Seraph believes that Tier has been kidnapped much for the same reason: for his magic. While Tier wasn't born of the Order, he is a Bard: he can keep people calm with his voice, he can absolve an argument, and his songs can create pictures with his words. Travelers are dying. The Masters of the Secret Path are stealing magic with every intention of unleashing the Stalker. And as a Raven of the Order, Seraph cannot let that happen.
Patricia Briggs is a Master Story-teller. She weaves a suspenseful mystery plot with excellent characters, great action scenes, and feelings. You can feel the inner battles of the main characters, from Seraph and Tier to Lehr and especially Jes. Every word pops the picture in your mind and you can swear you're right along with each character, seeing what they see, feeling what they feel. What I also really liked wsa the ending of the book. Even though this is the first book in her Raven duology, it doesn't leave this huge cliffhanger ending. While the book can be read as a stand-alone, only a couple of the plot lines are left unresolved, which does leave you wondering, but not frustrated. If you like fantasy novels, you will definitely like this one.