(Major Spoilers!!!) Emma is born in Northendell, in the frigid Pewter Mountains, to Dak, a scholar of Zo history, and Ilsa, a singer and musician. At the behest of his wife, Dak gives up his pursuit of immortality, breaking ties with his friend and partner, Mathias. When King Frizzbeard’s men-at-arms learn of Dak’s golem creation, their home is ransacked. Knowing the punishment for dabbling in the forbidden arts, Dak and Ilsa choose immolation over capture, trusting in their golem protector, Grimosse, to steal their infant daughter, Emma, into the night. Mathias receives the child with reluctance.
During the early years of her upbringing, he takes academic interest in teaching her to read, but as she ages and begins to question his research, he becomes reclusive, and she is told nothing of her parents. Before the age of nine, Mathias keeps her a prisoner in her own home. When Emma is at last given freedom to explore the labyrinthine avenues of Northendell, she is treated cruelly by other children. She is later imprisoned for perusing Mathias’s study. Freed from her bedroom after a year, Emma finds solace in forgotten places, befriending the ravens that populate the city’s narrow streets, with whom she imaginatively converses.
But when a neighbor miscarries, the strange girl who talks to ravens is implicated for witchcraft. Emma is brought before the king and is sentenced to death by exile, to be ousted into the cold beyond the city walls. But a sympathetic soldier, Duncan, lessens her sentence to slavery. On the way to the southern kingdoms, her prison cart is overturned, and her captors are brutally killed. And yet her saviors are just as frightening: wild humans, a man and a woman, soaked in blood and not wearing a stitch of clothing. If Emma hopes to survive, to discover the secrets of her stepfather’s study, she will need to follow them, but what faith can she put in such savage creatures? Still, there is something strangely familiar, and comforting, about their third companion, a patchwork life form, a thing of dead flesh given life, a golem named Grimosse.