The series tells the story of Prince Roger, the spoiled younger son of the Empress of the galaxy-spanning "Empire of Man", also third in line to the throne. Roger is described at the start of the series as an over-handsome useless fop. Part of this description comes from a reputation he owes to the acts and status of his father, who is estranged from the empress.
Roger and his group of bodyguards travel across Marduke in order to find there way to an enemy controlled spaceport to attempt to steal a ship. Along the way Roger and his group make necessary alliances with a succession of local polities of various societal archetypes ranging from hunter-gatherers to early gunpowder civilizations. Roger and a slowly dwindling number of bodyguards supported by a group of Markukan allies eventually find there way to the spaceport and off the planet.
Upon returning to civilization, Roger becomes informed of a number of plots affecting his family of which he is believed to be the architect.