Orrec is the son of the Brantor of Caspromant; Gry the daughter of the Brantors of Barre and Rodd. They have grown up together in neighbouring domains, running half-wild across the Uplands. The people of the domains are like their land: harsh and fierce and prideful; ever at war with each other, raiding cattle, capturing serfs, enlarging their holdings.
It is only the gifts that keep a fragile peace. The gifts are powers, running from father to son and from mother to daughter.
The Barre gift is calling animals. The women of Cordemant have the power of blinding, or making deaf, or taking away speech. The Rodds can send a spellknife into a man's heart, or cut his throat, or maim as they please, if he's in sight. The Callems can move heavy things by word and gesture - even buildings, even hills.
And Brantor Ogge of Drummant has the gift of slow wasting.
The Caspro gift is the worst and best of all: it is the gift of undoing: an insect, an animal, a place . . .
Orrec and Gry are the heirs to Caspro and Barre. Gry's gift runs true, but unlike her mother, she will not use it to call animals for the hunt. Orrec too is a problem, for his gift of undoing is wild: he cannot control it - and that is the most dangerous gift of all . . .
GIFTS is Ursula Le Guin at her best: an exciting, moving story beautifully told.