Shadow in the East is the third book of a series set in Arland, a millennium after an environmental catastrophe has destroyed millions of people and most of a pre-existing civilization of earth, leaving a ruling class of Guardians who control most of an agrarian population.
In the first two books, Guardian control of Arland is significantly diminished in Rinu, the richest part of Arland, by growing rebellion in disadvantaged areas of the region.
In Book III, Guardian practices of forced labour and repressive economic measures, coupled with outright sale of whole villages into slavery breeds open rebellion and a second, black market economy supported by small villages and merchants throughout Rinu region. This alternative market becomes formalized into a co-operative venture, Rance Market, by Yeo, leader of a feral tribal community, the One ways. When Rance Market decides to introduce its own currency, based on steel coins called Zeltos, an unexpected economic success follows.
In the meantime, other Guardian cities eye their diminished neighbor, Rinu, covetously. Tension develops between the armed strength of Guardian cities and a growing militia in Rinu’s towns and villages. Two repressive practices of Guardian rule, selling its subjects for economic gain and conscripting large numbers of men for military service, are targeted by the developing grass roots resistance movement.
As Yeo, Jel, Creela and Tsy-Cur struggle to combat the slave trade, other Arland Companions prepare to defend their families and villages. Fueled by Jel and Creela’s travels and Jel’s son Telik’s mercantile expertise, new allies in Siska and Slen join the Arland Companions. Together, they train and arm local militias in preparation for the defence of their communities. On the Guardian side, a newly assembled force, the Bettel Army, is led by Pekvin, Jel’s former friend; now a powerful and greedy Guardian. All Arland fears the advent of a first spark which will plunge their country into a battle between Guardians and dissenting communities for the control of Rinu.