In medieval France, a squire named Garin rescues a shepherdess from Jaufre, a knight who, one might say, was threatening her maiden virtue. Montmaure, Jaufre’s father, is a great overlord and Garin is forced to flee to escape reprisal. He joins the crusade and spends eight years at war in Syria, where he becomes a troubadour-knight and wins renown for his valor and poetry. Meanwhile, Jaufre desires to marry Audiart, the Princess of Roche-à-Frêne, but she refuses him because, unknown to him, she was that shepherdess he attacked. He lays siege to the town, assisted greatly by Richard, the Duke of Aquitaine.
When Garin returns, the lands around Roche-à-Frêne have been laid to waste, and while the town itself remains strongly defended, Jaufre’s blockade threatens to starve them into capitulation. Garin joins Audiart, who recognizes him as the squire who once rescued her. She devises a plan wherein she will again become a shepherdess, Garin will become her jongleur brother, and the two will sneak across the enemy lines to meet with Richard and convince him to withdraw his troops. He does. Without Aquitaine’s help, Montmaure is unable to maintain the siege and Roche-à-Frêne is saved. Audiart asks Garin to marry her.
Anthony Sorel is a poet who lives in a remote cabin in the mountains of southern Ireland. He traveled there some years ago in an attempt to purify himself — to make his soul as simple as those of the native inhabitants. He has a theory that the faeries of Irish folklore are real — not in a literal sense, but rather the faeries one sees are a manifestation of one’s own emotion.
Anna Quartermaine is one of the natives, but not of the simple peasant class Anthony idolizes. She’s wealthy, well traveled, and anglicized. She’s loved by all men and she enjoys all men’s attention, but it’s not until Anthony arrives that she finds herself in love. Malachi, Anthony closest friend, warns him of the dangers women pose to poets. Anthony is at once smitten by Anna, but he tries to break away, at last deciding to leave the village and seek a new hermitage elsewhere.
The night before his departure, Anthony is visited by what he takes to be a faery in the guise of Anna, who beckons him to stay and love her. His resistance spent, he gives in. In the morning, Anthony discovers that the spirit actually was Anna. Disgusted at the loss of his ideal, he stabs her to death with a kitchen knife.
The neglected freethinker youngest son of a wealthy midwestern businessman is forced to abandon his dreams of being a poet/novelest to take on the family business when his eldest brother dies and the middle brother burns-out and becomes an alcoholic. Part one of the Growth trilogy.