Long ago, the Founding Mothers left old Earth and the Phylum Worlds, seeking a hidden place to reforge human destiny. Through genetic wizardry, they have altered human sexual patterns. For most of the year, any child born on planet Stratos is a clone of her mother, identical to all the sisters in her venerable clan. Only in summer are “vars” conceived – old-fashioned, gene-mixed girls, and even sometimes boys – each one garishly, ignobly unique. Maia, one lonely young var, grows up knowing she must summon all her skill to win a place in this world run by and for high-caste clanswomen. A world far gentler than those of the Old Phylum…except for those rare seasons of change, where the planet seems to call its people forth to glory. Preparing to set sail, Maia watches the strange, bearded faces of the seamen. Are the teachings true? Are men practically another species, fit only for brief encounters? Or might their arts and games and secret ways hint of something deeper to share with the women of Stratos? Ready to seek a place in the world, Maia sets forth expecting labor and hardship. What she finds is danger, adventure and a strange, half-innocent emissary, whose simple message may mean new hope…or a return to ancient terrors. From the vast unforgiving sea, to imprisonment, to rocky depths where she must wrest hidden secrets from the clutches of time, Maia comes to understand why the Founding Mothers sought a change in human life…and what a price their descendants must pay. Cover art by Gary Ruddell.