In this incredible sci-fi western we meet the mysterious Drayaden Sinclaire a gunslinger who carries a special sword by his side that he has vowed to never draw and use no matter how much he might want to. Drayaden always shows up on docking day when the criminals and their families arrive by train to Desert Land to be let loose. There are factions known as cloaks that will pick their recruits among the criminals and leave for dead the others in the melee. The black cloaks are the worst. They would take mothers and children. The Safeport Regiment is the only other group there to save people. Them and Drayaden.
At this particular docking day, Drayaden isn't doing so well. But Malcolm, the closest thing he has to a friend, comes to his rescue and they get a group of people onto a wagon and race to Safeport where from there they can get the people sent to safe towns in the area. But the black cloaks are on their heels and the two of them don't look like they will make it. On the ship, Esper up in the sky which escorted the prison train, Anya Claire Ragnarock, an officer, takes one of the crystillium rifles and uses the fire round to take out the black cloaks. Drayaden can see her from the ship and wonders why she did it. Commander Ressin, her commanding officer, understands, but still, has to report her.
After Drayaden gets patched up by Rosalina, a woman he doesn't want to admit to caring about, and dodges another recruitment spiel by Nicholai Stone, the charismatic head of the Regiment, he goes to the bar in Northwall the last place before the desert and is approached by a woman who asks him to look for her husband and son who received a message to go to Joshua and haven't come back. She is willing to trade a place at her home for his services. In Desert Land people barter for what they need. There is no monetary system. Guns and bullets are hard to come by and crystillium weapons are unheard of. Most people use knives or whatever they can put together.
Before Anya can be brought up on charges for what she did back at the Desert Land with the rifle, she and Commander Ressin have been ordered to go back to Desert Land to pick up Drayaden Sinclaire and bring him back to Toreth, the main city. They are told that he destroyed the town of Joshua and that he was part of a secret project under Special Operations Division and that he performed well until he fled before completing training. He is to be returned to them immediately. Resslin and Anya don't completely buy what Special Operations is selling but they have a job to do. Drayaden and Malcolm have traveled to Joshua to hunt for that woman's husband and son, but instead, find not a trace of a town. It has been completely obliterated. The only thing left is a set of large footprints. This is when Drayaden is caught by Resslin and Anya.
On board the Esper, Drayaden has a flashback to when he was on that ship or one just like it--when he was possibly experimented on. He really doesn't remember anything. It was bad enough that he escaped to the Desert Land. The Desert Land is a desolate and hopeless place no one wants to go to, so he was pretty desperate to go there to leave behind whatever horrors he had been facing.
It turns out that the whole thing was a setup. The black cloaks have taken over the ship. While the battle over the ship wages, Drayaden goes to get his sword back. To save the lives of Anya and Resslin he draws it partially and lightning crackles across the sky and unearthly rain begins to pour down. The lightning strikes the ship and takes it down. With a great deal of force, Drayaden is able to put the sword back into its holder without killing anyone else. The sword makes him want to kill everything in sight once it's drawn. They take motorbikes and jump to the ground to avoid the crashing plane. Drayaden has them go to Safeport.
He and Malcolm tell them about the footprint at Joshua and how they are going to investigate it and Resslin and Anya are welcome to come along if they want to. So all four set out to discover what leveled a town. Anya and Resslin still aren't completely sure it wasn't Drayaden but this way they can keep an eye on him. They also aren't sure that anyone is coming back for them. Drayaden and Malcolm teach them how to fight with Desert Land weapons in hand to hand combat something the military had stopped training their recruits. Following these footprints will lead to many surprises and lots of death and destruction. As a heads up, this book ends on a real nail-biting cliffhanger. I fell in love with the young silver-haired, duster wearing Drayaden who is quick on the draw and deadly in a knife fight, or any fight for that matter. He doesn't know how to quit which may be his undoing. He is an honorable man who holds to oaths and when he gives his word he sticks to it. You can't say that about all the characters in this book. This was a truly enjoyable read and I can't wait for the next book in the Sands of Deliverance series to come out so I can find out what happens.