Sixteen-year-old Naya holds life and death in her hands. She wipes her forehead on her sleeve and takes a deep breath. The baby that she saved turns from blue to pink in his mother’s arms, and a wave of relief mixed with longing washes over her. I can’t cry. Naya inserts a sterile tracer into the implanter, but a cool touch on her arm startles her. She raises her gaze to meet the mother’s eyes. They plead. Bile burns Naya’s throat as she wrestles with herself. I’ve just saved this baby’s life. He deserves to live free. She places the implanter back in its case as she chooses compassion over obedience—the same crime that got her mother shot.
As a deo, when she is not working as a midwife, Naya must spend three days a week in military training games. She excels in the training, but she finds herself being drawn into a forbidden relationship with Jairan—a Continent soldier. More powerful than Naya, older, and overly confident, Jairan teaches Naya to fly, to fire a gun, to help protect her people through training “games.” And while Naya knows Jairan should be her enemy, she can’t stop herself from wanting to be around him—wanting him. But when Naya uncovers the disturbing truth that their “games” are real, she is horrified that she has been engaging in remote drone attacks that further the Continent’s plot to enslave her people. Naya’s knowledge makes her an enemy of the Continent, and she suspects it’ll be Jairan’s job to kill her if she doesn’t cooperate. But as a person who helps give life, Naya knows she has only one choice: Join the rebels and go head-to-head with Jairan.