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Bren returns to Shejidan to find his replacement Deana Hanks unwilling to leave. She is a constant thorn in his side as he tries to reassure the atevi lords that the Pheonix is not going to destroy the atevi race with ray guns or some such evil technology. He also establishes communications with the Pheonix, as translator for the atevi. Meanwhile, an atevi-hating faction as assumed power among the humans at Mospheira, and Bren's actions are considered almost treasonous. So. With his family back home being harassed, the atevi lords upset by things Hanks carelessly said, an assassin still out there trying to kill him, and his physical state less than ideal with the injuries from Malguri, Bren has yet another duty placed on him. The Pheonix intends to send ship-paidhiin down to the planet amid all the unrest between the atevi lords as well as the Mospheiran humans.
Do not read the synopsis if you have never read this book!
This summary was written for people who have already read this book.  It contains many spoilers and reveals the ending of the novel.  Since these books are published years apart, I thought a quick 10 minute review would be helpful.

The Paidhi Bren Cameron arrives back in the Shejidan airport after treatment in Mospheira for his injured shoulder and ribs. Exhausted from surgery and hazed out on painkillers, Bren finds that his replacement Deana Hanks, who had been sent a few days earlier, refuses to relinquish the paidhi-position without an official recall order from Mospheira. Banichi and Jago order Hanks to be detained and taken away from Bren's presence. The Treaty only allows one paidhi, and Tabini obviously favors Bren. 

Banichi and Jago take Bren to the Bujavid where Bren discovers that Lady Damiri, Tabini's lover and the daughter of one of the aiji's greatest opponents, has openly declared her alliance with Tabini and has moved in with him. Furthermore, Bren is to stay at Damiri's now-vacant Atigeini suite. 

Bren meets with Tabini who tells Bren he wants to shoot Hanks-paidhi. Hanks, the spoiled daughter of an influential Mospheiran politician, has ignored the strict regulations of dispensing technology to the atevi and has made rash comments to Tabini's rival factions about FTL (faster-than-light) travel. Atevi religion depends on the exactness and perfection of numbers. FTL, with its mathematical approximations, represents a serious threat to their spiritual beliefs. With the unexpected re-appearance of the Pheonix only a week ago, and now the sacriligious FTL news from Hanks, many of the atevi lords are understandably upset.

Tabini asks Bren to speak to the lords to calm them down. Afterwards, Bren returns to his quarters, and learns from a telegram, that his long-time girlfriend Barb has suddenly married someone else. It is the final insult to an already difficult day.

The rest of his week doesn't get any easier. During a televised report on FTL to the atevi lords, another attempt is made on Bren's life. Deana Hanks continues to pester Bren with assertions that she is the real paidhi. Bren has tea with Ilisidi and learns that there is an information leak among his staff in Damiri's quarters. In Mospheira, a faction of the government that hates the atevi has gained power, and as a result, the Foreign Office has virtually cut off relations with Bren. His family members are being harrassed and threatened.

Bren translates several messages between the Pheonix and Mospheira. Mospheira is trying to dissuade the ship from communicating with the atevi. Bren speculates that the ship is probably more interested in getting needed supplies than establishing permanent relations with the planetsiders. Tabini decides it is time the atevi contacted the ship. Bren does so and establishes relations with the Pheonix's senior captain. Tabini suggests a Treaty with the ship and that the ship send a ship-paidhi to Shejidan. Bren interprets for the aiji, and the ship captain agrees to the terms.

Meanwhile, Deana Hanks has been trying to gain support from opposing atevi lords to secure her own position. Bren confronts Deana, and she accuses Bren of betraying the humans in Mospheira by helping the atevi in their dealings with the Ship.

Bren communicates with the ship again and learns that the ship paidhiin, one for Shejidan and one for Mospheira, will land in the parachute pods used by the original colonists. It is a one-way trip until the atevi and humans can build a return vehicle. The landing will take place at Taiben.

While Bren is talking to Deana Hanks on the phone, Hanks suddenly cries out and Bren hears guns at the other end of the line. Shortly after, someone strafes the Atigeini Breakfast Room Bren is standing in with indiscriminate gunfire. Banichi saves Bren while Jago is on the roof looking for the offenders. Tabini and Damiri arrive with more security, and Bren learns that Hanks has been kidnapped. 

The gunfire attack, which lacked finesse, may have been more of a diversion from Hanks' kidnapping than an actual attempt on Bren's life. Damiri is outraged at the contempt the attackers had for her family's historical Residence. The Atigeini, who have always been Tabini's opponents before, may switch sides now due to this offense.

Bren later discusses the various opposing Atevi factions with Banichi. He learns that Ilisidi and Damiri are actually suspects in the kidnapping of Hanks and the shooting of the Atigeini Residence. The twistings of atevi politics are dizzying.

And in the midst of all this tumult, a helpless parachute pod carrying the ship paidhiin will be floating down into Taiben....

At Taiben, Bren and Tabini are able to finally have some down-time and discuss personal matters. Tabini offers to break Treaty rules and allow Bren's family and Barb onto the mainland if the persecution they face on Mospheira escalates to the point where they feel their lives are threatened. Bren is very touched by this gesture. Also at Taiben, Bren and Jago, who have been developing a mutual attraction throughout the course of the story, have an awkward-but-sweet little moment where they reveal their feelings about each other. 

The Pod landing is scheduled for dawn. However, Security learns that opposing atevi groups are coming their way. The members of the aiji's party evacuate Taiben in several different cars. Hopefully the enemies will go after the aiji and the paidhi rather than the landing pods. That night, the aiji's party hides out in storm shelters scattered throughout the area.

The next morning, they head out for the landing site near Taiben. Their cars come under attack. Bren's car turns over. He and his security guards find cover and return fire. Just as the situation begins to get really ugly, help arrives in the form of Ilisidi and her mecheiti-riding guards. The aiji dowager saves the day. As an added bonus, Ilisidi and Lord Geigi, one of the dowager's allies, have managed to recover Deana Hanks from her captors.

Dawn is approaching. Tabini, Bren, and their security mount up on mecheiti, and the aiji and the dowager's two groups ride together to meet the landing pod. The pod lands without incident. The door opens, and the two new paidhiin are greeted by a bloodied and shaking Bren with a most intimidating row of armed atevi behind him. 

Bren welcomes them to the world and says, "for the rest, you've got to trust me."