Trisana (Tris) Chandler meets Kethlun (Keth) Warder, a glass mage with a dangerous power: lightning. During their first meeting, he was unconsciously using his ambient powers and accidentally created a living dragon out of glass. Tris saves the dragon from being smashed by Keth, and names it Chime. She later finds out that he had been struck by lightning less than a year ago, and this left him paralyzed and with a great fear of lightning. He learned to walk again, but his speech is a little slow, and he lost his ease at glass-blowing.
A twenty-year-old man just as stubborn as Tris, Keth won't accept Tris or any of her teachings. He argues with her constantly, and refuses to learn about his lightning abilities, fearing a relapse into paralysis. Tris is surprisingly patient with him as she guides him through meditation and control over his powers. Eventually, Keth learns to trust Tris' instincts, and grudgingly accepts her as his teacher.
Soon, mysterious murders begin to take place. All the murdered women are Yaskedasi, female entertainers who are looked down upon in the town for their immodesty. But when one of the murdered Yaskedasi turns up in the town's central fountain, everyone starts to take notice. The town has a culture of thanatophobia, an irrational fear of death. Each time a person dies, the place must be cleansed by the town's priests when they perform the traditional cleansing ceremony. This ceremony is not only religious, but magical as well, effectively erasing all traces of the murderer, making it impossible for the authorities to track the killer, nicknamed the 'Ghost' by locals.
Keth has been asked to attempt to find the Ghost by way of glass balls that only he can make. These balls hold scenes of past crimes in them, causing him to be a suspect at first. Keth and Tris struggle, first against the local authorities, then against each other in the creation of these globes. When Keth's friend Yali is killed by the Ghost, the race takes on new meaning. Tris must teach Keth to control not only his magic, but his emotions and his impatience, for the Ghost to be caught, while taking care of Yali's foster daughter Glaki, who is an academic mage.
Kethlun Warder (Keth)- Keth was one of the best glassmakers of his generation. He was struck by lightning and acquired both Lightning and Glass magic because of this. He must swallow his pride and accept Tris's teaching before it's too late to do anything for either the Yaskedasi or himself.
Niklaren Goldeye (Niko)- Niko was Tris's teacher, the first person ever to accept her. Now that Tris is a mage in her own right, Niko is her mentor and one of her closest friends.
Yali- Yali is one of Keth's best friends. She is a yaskedasi and therefore shunned by society, but Keth sees the real her. Her murder causes Keth to rethink his priorities.
Dema- Dema is a young police-mage. He was put on the case of the murdered Yaskedasi after traditional methods failed. He must overcome his prejudices and work with Keth and Tris to bring in the Ghost.
Glaki- The four-year old daughter of one of the women murdered. When Yali, who had taken over caring for her, is also murdered, Tris takes Glaki in. Glaki has academic magic.