Half-student, half-servant in the military Royal School of Sordaling, where he appears short and ugly to his tall Velonyan companions, Nazhuret is forced out at age 20. He is taken on by Powl - a mysterious individual learned in arts such as astronomy, war and languages - who teaches Nazhuret, above all, to control his body and mind. After several years, Nazhuret begins to find his own way, traveling around Velonya as an itinerant optician and befriending a wolf. Going south, he works as a bouncer in a tavern, where he discovers his mixed heritage: he is part Rezhmian, of a neighboring country often at war with Velonya. When he discovers a plot to kill King Raduf, Nazhuret's training, both of body and mind, is sorely tested. MacAvoy's complex realm is full of confusion and ambiguity, in which, as Powl says, "You, Nazhuret . . . are the lens of the world: the lens through which the world may become aware of itself. The world, on the the other hand, is the only lens in which you can see yourself."