For the inspiration for this novel, Guy Gavriel Kay has drawn on the conflicts in medieval Spain, including King Ferdinand's expulsion of the Jews and forced conversion of those who remained during the Inquisiton, and the fall of Granada to the Christians. In this tale, there are two moons looking over a planet which is home to the country of Esperana. The rulers are the Asharites, who worship the stars and who hail from the neighboring land of Al-Rassan. The Kindath, a dispersed people with no country of their own, worship the moons. The Horsemen of Jad are worshippers of the sun. Zealots from the Asharites and Jaddites are bent on taking advantage of the political turmoil in Esperana, and the central characters of the book do their best to keep civilization going.