Twenty-year-old Jade has grown up during hard times. The once tame country of Sercosia is becoming more and more wild. People are being slaughtered, children are becoming orphans, and men are disappearing in the night. Her village fights for its very survival, and lying on the other side of the Denbrook Forest means that it is completely cut off from any help the king can offer. This is the life Jade has known since the day she was born. Now she is a scout battling huge wolves from the forest and vicious packs of creatures from the plains to save her home.
But her life changes drastically when Jade discovers a man lying in the woods with a fatal wound. On his dying breath, he tells her that he is a Shadow Rider who bore an important message from a reconnaissance mission. War is coming. King Aédan must be warned, but the Rider refuses to tell Jade because "you won’t believe me. And . . . even if you do . . . nobody will believe you."
Only the mysterious message can reveal the key to mankind's survival and the credibility to convince the king, but the Rider's message is in the hands of the Five on the way to their dark master in the volcanic valley aptly named the Black Lands. Reluctantly, Jade agrees to take the Rider's horse, cloak, and bow, and pursue the message.
Suddenly Jade is thrust into a battle far more dangerous than any that she has ever fought. The penalty of failure is far worse than death; if the Five's master reads the message before Jade can retrieve it, all of Sercosia will fall under the shadow of an ancient ruler skilled in the forbidden art of black magic.
Along the way, Jade will learn more about herself and the legendary hero in whose footsteps she is following than she ever could have imagined.