In the dawn of time, women ruled, and the people had no word for war. Then the horsemen came. Sarama is the last of the White Mare's servants, descended from an ancient line conquered long ago by warrior tribes. Her father is the king of one such tribe. Her twin brother Agni is the king's heir. But she is heir to an older world, and a different way.
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Long years after the White Mare came to the people of the Mothers, bringing the wild horsemen from the sea of grass and changing the world forever, the world is changing again. The Mother of Lir is dead, her heir cast out amid dire omens. War is coming - such a war as the people have never seen, fought with a new and terrible weapon: the chariot. Rhian, potter's child and White Mare's chosen, ventures with Emry the prince of Lir into the sea of grass and undertakes to steal the enemy's weapon.
For a long, brutal century, the Kingdom of Lower Egypt has been occupied by the "Vile Asiatics", the conquerors called the Shepherd Kings. With their horses and chariots, they overwhelmed the armies of Egypt and swept over the Delta and the sacred cities. Iry, daughter of an old noble house, the Sun Ascendant, has been enslaved by the bearded conquerors. But her new master is born of a different blood, son of the priestess of an ancient rite, the cult of the Horse Goddess and her avatar, the White Mare.
In the grandfathers' time, when few yet living had been born, the People worshipped the horse, and served him, and took the gifts that he gave them: his meat, his hide, the milk of his mares. But he had not yet granted to men the greatest gift of all: the gift of riding on his back, and racing the wind. Sparrow is a shaman's daughter in a tribe that forbids women to be kings, to be shamans, to be anything but silent and tractable servants to the all-powerful men.