In City Europe, Stefan Lehmann, the estranged son of the one-time Dispersionist leader, has fled to the icy Alpine wastes after the fall of DeVore's fortresses. It is from there that he returns, to set about making a name for himself in the Lowers of the City, infiltrating the cut-throat world of the Triad brotherhoods.
Li Yuan has never been more content. He has come to love all three of his new wives, and celebrates the birth of his first legitimate son, Kuei Jen. In a powerful position in the Council, and with peace in the great world of levels, all seems well. Scientist, Kim Ward, has also found love - with the Marshal's daughter, Jelka Tolonen. But for both men, their happiness is to prove short-lived.
The Lowers are ripe for rebellion with new groups of revolutionaries carving out small empires in those teeming warrens. And Tolonen would rather send his daughter to the far reaches of the solar system than have her marry a Clayborn. It will be seven years before they meet again; years in which Chung Kuo will rip itself apart.