When villagers call Cassia and her brother, Foxfire, "the serpent's children," they mean it as an insult. But to Cassia it is an honor, for legend says that once a serpent sets her mind on something, she never gives up. And in a time when famine, drought, and violence mark her family's life, Cassia has nothing less than survival to fight for. Their father is a revolutionary, determined to free China from invaders. Foxfire, certain he'll find a mountain of gold, flees to a faraway land. Cassia will need all of her strength and wisdom to keep her family together, and to prove that she is truly the serpent's child.