WARNING: This page contains spoilers for all published books in the Dance of the Sibling Suns series. Each book's parts are hidden behind their own spoiler walls. Click to toggle and view the recaps.
AN OCEAN OF OTHERS
Part One: Siblings
The city of Liwokin was forever changed by a mysterious outbreak of violence known as the Great Riot. No one remembers the details of the event or how it began, but all recall the bloody aftermath that left thousands of Liwo dead. Only the formation of an organization called the Agency was able to return the city to a state of relative normalcy.
On a job to retrieve his client’s pendant, Grim, the last bounty hunter in the city of Liwokin, pursues his target through the chaotic Old District. Grim’s chase is complicated by the thief fleeing across the Blight docks and an Agency Finger named Bengard, who has been officially sanctioned to capture the thief.
However, the thief is an Archemage and uses a powerful and deadly magic called Archefire to escape. Grim manages to kill the thief before he can cause more harm, saving Bengard’s life and recovering the pendant he seeks along with a slip of paper the thief dropped. While Bengard encourages Grim to join the Agency, recognizing the diminishing role of bounty hunters in Liwokin, Grim remains conflicted. As he departs, memories of the Great Riot haunt him, and he reflects on the harsh realities of life in the city as the days grow shorter and the nights longer.
Grim finds his way to the inn where his client and friend, Inac, is waiting. He delivers the pendant, which not only holds significant emotional value linked to Inac’s deceased brother, but also illuminates the note dropped by the thief. The note mentions monsters and an adviser and seems to hint at a conspiracy by someone named Reed against Ulken, Head of the Agency. Sensing an opportunity, Grim and Inac join the Agency to get closer to Ulken and reap some reward for this information.
Upon joining, however, Grim and Inac are immediately separated. Grim is instead assigned to Hand Sixty-Four with four other new Fingers: Garret, a sardonic Ekoan ranger; Sentyx, a stone-skinned Skardwarf; and Dunnax and Lorelay, Paceeqi siblings who are fugitives in the Bright Empire. They meet directly with Ulken and are assigned to investigate reports of missing persons in Leppit fishing village.
Before leaving the city, the Hand meets with First Eye Reed for more information. Grim attempts to subtly extract information about the conspiracy from Reed, but the First Eye sees through his attempts and assumes Grim knows more about the situation than he really does.
On the way to Leppit, the Hand encounters Vinlin, heir to the Bright Throne, and saves him from a bandit attack. Despite Grim antagonizing him, the Bright Prince promises to reward the Hand later, then leaves with a carriage full of treasures collected from throughout the empire.
The next night, the Hand is attacked by an unseen monster that causes hallucinatory effects, but they are saved by the appearance of First Eye Reed who lures the monster away. Strange perceptions continue when the Hand arrives in Leppit. There is rain that cannot be felt and an atmosphere laden with despair. In their investigations, they learn of a boy named Wyran who died and became an abhorrent monster responsible for projecting this Aura. In combat, the creature attacks by projecting nightmarish memories into Grim’s mind, vivid enough to convince Grim he experienced them himself.
When Garret shoots an arrow through its skull, the rains cease and the Leppit villagers come out of hiding. However, Wyran’s memories become one with Grim’s, and the first monster they encountered is still at large.
Part Two: Prey
Upon reporting the events at Leppit to Ulken, the Head of the Agency explains that their true purpose is to fight these monsters, Benefactors. Each one is different, and their illusory effects are evolving with each new encounter. Grim is horrified that Ulken knowingly sent Hand Sixty-Four into danger without warning, but they’re given time off to consider whether they want to remain in the Agency.
While on recess, Grim encounters another conspirator working with Reed. He accompanies Oltrov, a member of the Gild, into the Blight where an exchange is struck for toxics called Druid’s Tears, which counteract a Benefactor’s Aura. He also learns that Reed survived the Benefactor attack outside Leppit, and is recovering from his injuries in the Pinegrave with the Druids. In his note, he mentions the name Prost, who Grim speculates may be Ulken’s adviser from the first note he recovered.
Grim is then summoned back for duty; however, this time there is no Benefactor to fight. Instead, it’s simple guard duty at a checkpoint leading to the Canako Canal. Lorelay is swapped out of the Hand for Inac, much to her brother’s chagrin, giving Grim a chance to fill Inac in on everything he’s learned about Reed and the conspiracy against Ulken. Inac also teaches Grim about Archedark, an aspect of Archemagic forbidden by the Bright Empire.
On guard duty, Grim allows a smuggler of Druid’s Tears to pass through the gates in exchange for information about Reed’s actions before he departed the Pinegrave. The next day, Vinlin arrives escorted by Lorelay. Grim doesn’t let him pass without inspecting the cart, and discovers the Bright Prince is also smuggling a source of Druid’s Tears through the gate.
As their confrontation comes to a head, a Benefactor arrives bearing an Aura of Disgust. This time, it’s not a huge beast, but a woman being transported in a cart by her husband. Vinlin and Lorelay flee to safety while the Hand prepares for combat. Grim receives her Deluge of memories and learns her name is Andya, and she died from a necrotic plague. The rest of the Hand shows little compassion in killing her, making Grim and Inac realize they’re the only one’s experiencing visions from the Benefactors.
Grim pieces together that someone is intentionally creating these monsters with an injection to the neck, a memory shared by both Andya and Wyran. Returning to the Agency headquarters, they realize Ulken is keeping a Benefactor in the tower. The Hand meets with lead mortician Tak to learn what the Agency knows about Benefactors. Tak convinces Grim, Garret, and Sentyx to deliver a living specimen for further study.
Before they can report to Ulken for their next command, the Hand finds out he’s away from the Agency. Supposedly, First Eye Reed is dead, killed by a trio of Peekers; however, Grim and Garret see through the lie. They break Pinch, the Peeker that reportedly killed Reed, out of the Liwokin Mental Ward and deliver it to Tak to fulfill his request.
The kidnapping of Pinch does not go unnoticed, however. One of Ulken’s Nerves commands them to stop working with Tak, and their next assignment is extraordinarily harsh. They travel into the Shaded Grounds to hunt the first Benefactor that chased them outside Leppit, a task several veteran Hands have failed to accomplish. The Hand stops at the Pinegrave to stock up on Druid’s Tears, causing strife within the enclave that causes the Druids to sever ties with the Agency.
Scouring the Shaded Grounds for the Benefactor, the Hand learns the monster was a hunter named Lomin who slaughtered all the forest’s animals in a revelrous night of predation. Its Aura overcomes Grim and fills him with a bloodlust that draws him and the Hand closer to the monster. Only the Druid’s Tears allow the Hand to overcome its Aura, but the monster is still a deadly encounter.
The entire Hand is nearly killed, even after the arrival of veteran Finger Bengard, who explains that Tak is in danger and needs their help. Ultimately, Grim chooses to detonate one of Bengard’s Archefire bombs from afar, killing the veteran Finger and the Benefactor to save Hand Sixty-Four. Tak, oblivious to Grim’s guilt, is pleased Hand Sixty-Four won the fight. They need to return to the city urgently. Ulken has summoned all Hands for battle against the final Benefactor.
Part Three: Darkness
Traveling back to Liwokin in a cramped steam carriage, Grim’s dreams are haunted by the memories of the Benefactors they’ve killed. The visions blend into one another, with no separation between nightmare and waking. He witnesses one vision in particular that troubles him, from Yezna, Ulken’s wife. This convinces Grim that Ulken is guilty of creating the Benefactor.
Tak, from experimenting on Pinch, has learned Benefactors are a swarm of small organisms that infests the brains of its hosts. Unfortunately, his experiments have gone wrong. He needs help from Hand Sixty-Four containing Pinch, for he plans to witness its Emergence into a new Benefactor.
Upon arriving in Liwokin, an exodus of Liwo into the woods west of the city convinces Grim that Pinch has already transformed into an Emergent Benefactor. He swears to kill Ulken for unleashing this tragedy on his city. But they find the Peeker is still in stasis at Tak’s private laboratory. The mortician is adamant about continuing the experiment, and the Peeker Emerges. Grim overcomes the Benefactor’s influence and kills the Emergent Pinch, but not before it kills Tak for the torture it experienced under his power.
Hand Sixty-Four is apprehended by Ulken’s Nerves and brought to the Agency for interrogation. In Pinch’s Deluge, Grim witnessed rage-filled memories from each of his friends’ past. Tensions are high in the Hand, and they fear they’ll be executed for disobeying Ulken. First Eye Jacquin arrives, however, and informs them they’ve been promoted to Rank Four Fingers in time for tomorrow’s operation against the final Benefactor.
Ulken gives them the details of the operation, which make no sense to Grim, who believes Ulken is trying to get all the Hands killed so there’s no one to oppose him from controlling the Benefactors. The rest of the Hand is unconvinced, because Grim’s only evidence comes from the visions he receives due to his own Benefactor infestation.
When Hand Sixty-Four takes part in Ulken’s operation, Grim is told he is Hand Captain and given an Archeflare to signal they’ve found the Benefactor. Grim and Garret plan to kill Ulken when he’s separated from all the other Hands, but Ulken is not where he says he would be. Instead, they’re subjected to an Aura that creates an illusory version of Liwokin within the forest. The Hand witnesses memories of Reed speaking to people throughout the city, but while investigating, another Hand uses their Archeflare.
Grim’s Hand arrives at the signal along with another, though both Hands are too late to prevent the slaughter they find. Garret realizes they were not killed by the Benefactor, but by a daggerclaw. Only Dunnax’s sacrifice allows the Hands to survive the attack with minimal casualties.
Short one member, Hand Sixty-Four resolves to confront Ulken. They realize from the Aura that Reed has become the Benefactor, and find him where the Agency tower exists in the illusion of Liwokin. Outside the tower, thousands of Liwo under the influence of the Aura are in a trance. One-by-one they are all being assimilated into the tower itself, becoming part of Reed’s Benefactor.
The Hand rescues Lorelay from her trance, and enter the tower to confront Ulken, who they know must be with Reed. The Hand engages in desperate combat, exhausted from their fight against the daggerclaw and outmatched by the Head of the Agency. Realizing Reed opposes Ulken, Grim orders Garret to flee with the Clasform boxes suppressing the Benefactor’s power. With Reed’s power restored, Ulken tries to escape, but Grim uses the Archeflare in a last-ditch attempt to kill the Head.
It fails, setting alight Reed’s twisted tower and enraging Ulken. The Head of the Agency severs Inac’s hand and stabs Grim through the gut, killing him and causing his Benefactor to begin its Emergence. Before it can complete the transformation, Reed interrupts and tells Grim he can grant him the power that Ulken sought to achieve.
Though Grim believes the Benefactor power should die with him, Reed proceeds to transfer the power anyway. He experiences his Emergence, a torrent of memories from ten thousand others who have been infested by the Benefactor organism. Within this ocean of others is Reed’s memories, which allow him to become an entirely new type of Benefactor. One that is not monstrous but human, and that is in his control.
Grim’s wounds are healed, and he returns to life, surprising Inac and Ulken in the burning hollow of Reed’s tower. His memories from Reed show that Yezna told Reed what Ulken had done, and Reed understood that Yezna’s Emergence caused the Great Riot in Liwokin. Ulken learns that Yezna would still be alive if not for him, and Grim kills him.
Grim escapes the burning tower with Inac and tells the crowd of Liwo, now out of their daze, that he’s killed the Head of the Agency for his crimes. He’s met with mixed reactions, but Jacquin tells Grim that killing the Head of the Agency is how the title passes on. Grim agrees to assume the role of leadership, knowing that he must reform the Agency as a force for good if humanity is to survive the scourge of the Benefactors.