On a planet ruled by male witches, two teenagers, Analee and her brother Daarf, find their lives turned topsy-turvy when a spaceship arrives from Earth. It is the “awkward ark,” a supply ship visiting worlds abandoned a century before when a meteor strike threatened humanity.
On board are two colonial agents, Eulanda and Thon, who have been given only 88 days to assess whether the failing colony on Deli can be guided to self-sufficiency or left to die out. Analee bonds quickly with Eulanda, the earth team’s female leader, seeing the chance for a new life in a sexist, repressive society. Her brother, a Warlock in training, is torn by conflicting loyalties.
The visitors from space reopen a long-disused science center and struggle to revive the failing colony with education and technology. But the Warlocks see a threat to their control and use fear and violence to prevent change. Mathew, an ambitious Warlock, poisons the High Priest and takes control of the brotherhood of witches. He is determined to gain revenge for his humiliation by Eulanda, who strips him of his whip in public when he tries to strike her.
Meanwhile, a calendar in the science center records the dwindling days before the “awkward ark” returns. Can the colony on Deli be saved?