The book centers around the Crown Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee of Kildenree, a small kingdom with more powerful neighbors. As a child she bonds with her aunt, who becomes her nursemaid and constant companion. She tells Ani, as the Princess is soon nicknamed, stories about three gifts certain people have: people-speaking (the power to manipulate people and persuade them in your favor), animal-speaking (the ability to communicate primarily with animals, using their sounds) and nature-speaking (the ability to communicate with certain elements, which the aunt says is very rare). The aunt goes on to say that Ani’s mother, the Queen, has the gift of people-speaking, as do many monarchs; she also says that she herself has the gift of animal-speaking. Though when Ani asks what gift she might have, her aunt says that it is still to early to tell.