Rye has lived all his life in the walled city of Weld, and every year he and his family (his mother and two older brothers) have endured the terrifying attacks of the winged Skimmers with their taste for human meat. But the attacks are growing worse, the Warden seems indecisive and his brothers speak of the need for changemaybe even rebellion. When the Warden calls for Volunteers to find and destroy the enemy who sends the Skimmers to destroy Weld's populace, red-headed Rye and his widowed mother watch in silence when first bold Dirk then subtle Sholto go forth into the unknown. They do not return and Rye realizes that to save his family, if not his city, he must go in search of his brothers. Young, unskilled, innocent and sensitive, Rye is motivated not by the desire for fame or glory but the desperate need to ease his mother's griefand his own.