'The Fifteens of Stone House have reached Attainment: the day ‘girlies’ may Beseech for the privilege of being Perfected and serving as womanidols in the Orchid Nursery. Among the Stone House girlies are Mica, a pious believer, and Pearl, vivacious and dangerously irreverent.
'When Pearl goes missing, Mica hopes fervently that her friend has been chosen for Perfection. But Mica finds stronger indications that Pearl has absconded, including a map that shows a path out of Perfect State towards the boundary where Civilisation meets Unrule. Mica feels bound by love and duty to seek Pearl — to save her from punishment if she is caught by the Ecumen or, worse, if she has left Civilisation.
Mica's search first takes her to Hagovel, the crossroads where the cursed Hag is suffered to exist in miserable solitude — an object lesson for the disobedient. Beyond Hagovel is a frightening physical and moral terrain where insurgents and outcasts are still fighting a strategic war against the clerical dictatorship.
'But first Mica must bring herself to violate the secret-sacred space that is the Orchid Nursery.' (Publication summary)