Darken Rahl, a tyrant who wants to expand his empire into the Midlands, sends soldiers to obtain the Book of Counted Shadows, which is in the possession of a Confessor named Kahlan Amnell. Kahlan crosses the magical boundary into Westland, a land of no magic, in search of a wizard. In Westland, Kahlan meets Richard Cypher, a woodsman who helps her escape the soldiers. Kahlan finds the wizard, Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander, and insists that he take her to the Seeker. Richard, who was sent by his father to Zedd, meets them and discovers that he is the Seeker, the person prophesied to defeat Rahl. One of the soldiers, Fane, kills Richard's father and takes the Book of Counted Shadows from Richard.
Trapped in the deadly Valley of Perdition, Richard's worst fears come magically to life and threaten to kill him, while the world's most powerful sorceress, Sister Nicci, plots to murder Kahlan. Cara's feelings for the new Seeker deepen.