Northern China in 1900. The nation is in turmoil; the failing Manchu dynasty struggles to survive in the face of poverty. Facing social disintegration coupled with foreign encroachments, the ancient traditions of China seem powerless against the onslaught of the modern world. From the countryside comes a response: the brutal, quasi-religious movement of Chinese peasants known as Boxers, who seek to rid the country of foreign influence by any means necessary. American missionaries James and Dorothy Cooper have been in China for five years, maintaining their small school and clinic and laboring to spread the gospel, but the Boxers' violent fury cuts short their mission, and their son Wayland is left barely clinging to life. Rescued by a kindly Chinese passerby, Wayland begins his recovery, but tensions remain high in the still-simmering city of Tianjin, and Wayland's new Chinese family has dark secrets of their own. He soon finds himself in the middle of a deadly dispute between two martial arts masters, and his own fate will hinge on the outcome. Wayland must navigate between two worlds, and arms himself with the powerful secrets of Chinese martial arts.