In the land of Mankahar, where reading and writing are punishable by death, a battle is raging. The human empire is robbing animals of speech using a poison called "pacification," and is marching to the furthest corners of the land to enslave creatures large and small. The only thing standing against them is the Order, a society of free animals determined to defend their way of life. On the western fringes of Mankahar, the rabbit Theo hides a secret: he knows the forbidden language, the symbols used to "catch words". When his village exiles him, he joins Brune, an axe wielding bear and loyal member of the Order, in the epic fight against the empire.But the Order's cause proves dangerous. Whom can Theo trust, when the empire punishes those who read or write with death? Worse, his fellow animals view the written word as sacrilegious. As the war for Mankahar's fate looms, Theo must risk everything to learn the full power of the forbidden language, or be silenced forever.