When Zhong Ning’er takes the job, she expects a smash-and-grab burglary she’s doing to make rent and help out a friend. What she doesn’t expect: a sad-eyed army boy who dreams of insurrection, a former rebel leader trapped inside a secret lab, a group of aspiring revolutionaries who are first collaborators, then compatriots, and then, perhaps, friends.
But this is Beijing, nearly a hundred and fifty years after General Yuan Shikai successfully declared himself emperor in 1915. His descendants rule the country from their seat in the imperial city, their gendarmerie—the Beiyang Army—run the streets, aided by cyborgs and the Brocade Guard. Walls have risen, dividing the city into districts called Rings—nominally only by geography, but in truth by class. Earthquakes devastate the northern farmlands, crops drown in the southern typhoons, and all over the country people are hooked on a drug they call Complacency.
As a Sixth Ring girl who watched previous uprisings crushed brutally by the court, Ning’er isn’t much of an optimist, and she’s certainly no revolutionary. But that might not be up to her—as the stakes get higher, the time for passivity is quickly running out, and she must decide if she wants to sit idly in her cynicism, or embrace the breathless, terrible possibility of hope.