James' plan to run away from home comes to a screeching halt when he winds up as a slave in Palatia, a country south of Marus. He and the Marutian boy he's sold with have a strange tendency to share dreams at times. They climb up the ladder from the bottom as slaves to great importance in the kingdom of Palatia. It's a journey - physical and spiritual - that James will never forget.
Glennall and James are hard workers and loyal to their masters. Glennall refuses to complain (though not for the most honorable reasons). The boys grow to care about each other and those around them, seeking the best for everyone. For the most part, Glennall does not abuse his power. James reaches out to him when he falls. During a drought, monks readily share their resources.
Glennall has a belief in the Unseen One (Whom we know as God). James has doubts about what the Unseen One is doing, but grows to trust Him. The dreams the boys share are from the Unseen One. Those at the monastery are solid believers in the Unseen One and are crucial to the growth of a character. James' Aunt Edna is a Christian who tries to share her faith with James.
Our first glimpses of Glennall are when he's tied up in a sack, kicked around, and when he's bound at the bottom of a mine shaft. The slaver is none too gentle with the boys. Glennall and James are threatened a few times and beaten terribly once on top of occasional strikes. They are worked hard and go through some unpleasant experiences. One of their dreams involves seeing a man hung; another shows animals eventually shriveling up to their deaths and people starving.
Drug and Alcohol Content
One man roughly kisses a woman before pushing her away. (There is no love between them.) His action is understood to be improper and vulgar.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
One character lets "loose a stream of words James assumed was the Palatian version of swearing".
Paul McCusker artfully adapted the Biblical account of Joseph into a whole new world. The basics of the story are there, though he took the liberty to make a few changes for the sake of story (including giving the equivalent of Joseph a wish for revenge). Readers should have an understanding of the true Biblical account before being exposed to this retelling of it. It's a tale of faith, forgiveness, and friendship worth reading.