Echelas was born in fifth-century Sparta, with the golden hair said to herald favor from the gods. However, if his life has been divinely blessed, Echelas would not have believed it. From his brutal childhood in the wilds to an adolescence spent mastering the art of war, Echelas has constantly struggled to prove himself a true son of Sparta. Framed for murder and awaiting the inevitable moment of his execution, Echelas is left dependent on the word of a mad, deposed king to see him vindicated.
From his prison cell, Echelas recounts his life and those who have graced it, including Elara, a young woman heis forbidden to love but who he is helpless to resist. Even as he tells his tale, a new threat is rising in the east. The massive armies of the Persian empire are advancing and they mean to conquer not only Sparta, but the entire Greek world with it.