Richard Cyper rescues Kahlan, a mysterious confessor from the Midlands sent to give the Book of Counted Shadows to the one true seeker. Zed, an old man who lives nearby, tells Richard that he is this seeker and gives him the Sword of Truth.
With Kahlan and Zed's assistance, Richard sets out to avenge his father's death. But with their way across the boundary gone they may have no way of returning to the Midlands even if they retrieve the Book of Counted Shadows.
With a price on Richard's head, the trio find themselves avoiding assassins who've managed to get maps showing Richard's location. Richard tries to aid a woman in freeing her brother from a monster but things are not as they seem.
Richard can't resist journeying to his hometown of Brennidon but becomes trapped there when it turns out Darken Rahl's forces have control of the town.
Richard and Kahlan try to keep a boy with the power to read minds out of Darken Rahl's hands. The task becomes difficult however due to the boy's ability to read their secrets, including how they feel about each other.
Richard, Kahlan and Zed journey to Drundril in an effort to retrieve their stolen horses. But once there their efforts to stop the selling of magical potions to villagers leads to Zed's capture by a former student of his.
To avert Richard's death at the hands of General Demmin Nass, the powerful Witch Woman Shota causes him to switch bodies with a villager, Gryff, leaving Richard to be married to Gryff's fiancé and the Gryff to stop Demmin Nass.
General Demmin Nass brings Darken's new orders: the seeker must not be killed but captured and enslaved. Richard and Kahlen are totally distracted when she stops his attempt to kiss her passionately but refuses to explain why. Zed can barely escape when D'Haraan torturer-enchanter Denna attacks and imprisons Richard in a dungeon, to be subdued by protracted torture designed to make pleasing his dominatrix his sole purpose. Kahlen resigns her post and agrees to swap places with order sister Lara, but discovers she abused her powers to enslave the village she had to …
Darken Rahl is planning to find the final Box of Orden, which is being held by Queen Milena or Tamarang. Zedd posses as a puppeteer for the Queens daughter, Violet's birthday party. Meanwhile Richard and Kahlan try to find a way to stop Darken Rahl's men from reaching Tamarang.
Richard's party suddenly meets the remaining members of Kahlan's order, who flee general Demmin Nass's troops to the coast to take refuge on a magically protected island to avoid extinction. To Kahlan's amazement it includes her presumed-dead sister Dennee, who very soon gives birth. Instead of the long-hoped new confessor, it's a boy, who by tradition must by ritually sacrificed out of fear he'll grow up as a mighty monster. Richard refuses to allow such cruelty and gets the confession-spellbound father Finn on his side, The order's mother resorts to confessing Zed …
While Zeddicus goes to visit home, Richard and Kahlan find out the killer of some members of the resistance, only to learn that somehow he lied to Kahlan when he confessed his crime. The real killer is still free.
At night, Richard's healthy sleeps changes into a deep trance. Zed soon realizes he's under a rare spell from a great magician, using a short celestial constellation to enable long distance mind control, which can end in death. Indeed, Darken Rahl has been enabled to appear to Richard in any form, notably his step-family, to make him recall his quest as they claim it never happened, in an effort to make Richard tell where the missing box of Orden is hidden. Zed fears rightly he won't be able to break the spell magically, but something else does just before Darken …
Richard, Kahlan and Zeddicus travel to an ancient Seeker's crypt to hide one of the Boxes of Orden, only to find that the past is not quite at rest there.
With Zeddicus again having parted ways with them, Richard and Kahlan encounter Chase. Together they infiltrate the now-under-Darken-Rahl's-rule Hartland, where Richard sees Anna. But a terrible secret lies in the city.
Darken Rahl gives Denna one last chance to bring him the final piece of the Box of Orden. She, fatefully, runs into Richard, Kahlan and Zeddicus. Then things get complicated and secrets long buried see daylight.
Richard and Kahlan return to a helpful village, only to find everyone dead. Objects a captured enemy calls Whisperers killed the people - and Darken Rahl has more of them in a keep. Richard decides to enter by impersonating the prisoner.
After a routine stop at an inn, both Richard and Kahlan start having alternating moments of uncharacteristic behavior. Can they find out the cause before Zeddicus returns or Darken Rahl's minions catch them?
King Gregor of Caddock requests the Seeker's help. Earlier, Gregor asked the witch Shota “power to defend the kingdom forever” to drive away the D'harans, but the power had a horrible downside that may stay forever as well.
A librarian is close to finding out where one of the copies of The Book of Counted Shadows is hidden. Rahl himself sets out to meet her. But Richard, Kahlen and Zedd are already there. However, something changes the situation completely.
Richard and Zedd get an idea of how Richard can control the power of Orden. But Darken Rahl has captured Jennsen and cursed her village. And she threw the Box of Orden to the bottom of a lake before being captured.
Rahl sends all his Mord'sith to kill Richard and they strike just as he assembles the Box of Orden. A magic explosion swallows Richard, Zedd is burned to a crisp and Kahlan taken prisoner for Rahl, who wants to make her his queen.