We start this book with learning a little bit about Lazlo Strange. His last name isn't his own but rather a name given to all orphans from the war (it's never revealed what the war was about, it just says a war about nothing). When his family is killed in the war he is sent to a monastery to be raised by the monks and they give him the name Lazlo.
Lazlo is charged with taking care of an old senile monk named Brother Cyrus who talks nonsense a lot about a place called Weep, a city that used to have a different name but the name was stolen away by magic so now it's only known as Weep. Lazlo begins taking the stories to heart and begins to believe it is a real place filled with warriors like gods called the Tizerkane and beauty beyond compare.
He runs away from the monastery since they don't like "dreamers" who keep their heads in the clouds and ends up at the library where the chief librarian Master Hyrrokkin takes him on as an apprentice. Lazlo spends his whole childhood and teenage years here but still dreams of Weep and has even written several books on the place based on theories from different books he's found throughout his years in the library.
One day Thyon Nero, the godson to the queen and a master alchemist who has figured out how to turn lead into gold by creating azoth (a secret essence sought by alchemists for centuries before this) comes to the library and says that he wants Lazlo's books delivered to his house. Lazlo wants to refuse but knows that he can't since Thyon is a very powerful man in the city due to his reputation, so he delivers them to Thyon. It's then that we learn that Thyon and Lazlo have a history.
Lazlo knew that Thyon was trying to create azoth, and when he is out delivering some books one day he hears a noise that sounds like a hurt animal, but when he goes to see what it is he realizes it's the Duke of Vaal beating his son (which is Thyon) and telling him he has to create azoth soon before their whole city falls due to the tremendous debts they owe and he's taking too long. Thyon tries to tell his father he's doing his best but his father says his best isn't good enough. Lazlo feels sorry for Thyon and feels a sort of kinship with him because the monks used to try to beat him into obedience and get him to quit dreaming about lost cities and becoming a warrior.
Lazlo doesn't know much about alchemy but he has read a book called Miracles for Breakfast about fairy tales from the Unseen City (Weep) and there was a theory in there that the alchemist was himself the secret ingredient to distilling azoth and the conjunction of human soul with elemental could create it.
Lazlo takes the book to Thyon's home and gives it to him. Thyon isn't grateful though and is instead angry that Lazlo is pitying him due to what he saw so he takes the book and slams the door in Lazlo's face. It's not long after that it's revealed to the city that Thyon made azoth. Thyon shows up at Lazlo's door one day and threatens that if he ever tells anyone how it was made that he will kill him.
A few days after Thyon requests Lazlo's books, Tizerkane warriors show up at the doors to the city. These are the warriors from the stories of Weep. They come riding spectral creatures and they request an audience with all of the city. Everyone is in awe since these people aren't even supposed to actually exist. Lazlo realizes that this is why Thyon wanted his books; the queen has told him that the Tizerkane were coming and he wanted to try to impress them with his knowledge of Weep.
The leader of the Tizerkane, Eril-Fane, also known as the Godslayer, speaks to the city and tells them that they are going to different cities and recruiting the best and brightest minds because they have a dilemma that no one has been able to solve, and although they are known as not letting outsiders in this time they have decided to make an exception and whoever solves their mystery will be greatly rewarded, but he can't tell them what it is he needs help with, just that they will have to see it to understand.
Thyon of course is recruited along with other alchemists and scholars, and when the Tizerkane start to leave, Lazlo gathers his courage and begs Eril-Fane to let him join them. He speaks to Eril in the tongue of Weep and Eril is impressed so he agrees to allow Lazlo to come with them as his assistant.
Many months later they arrive in Weep and the mystery is revealed as they go into the city. A huge temple in the shape of a seraphim is suspended over the city blocking out all daylight on the city with its wings. Eril-Fane then tells them the story of what happened to the city:
Hundreds of years ago, the temple came down from the sky and inside were 6 Gods called the Mesarthim, with skin as blue as azure; 3 men and 3 women. Weep felt these were angels but they turned out to be cruel beings who would steal men and women from the city who were "of age" and reproduce with them and use them as slaves in the Citadel (this is what they called the giant temple in the sky). After using these people for many years their memories would be wiped clean and then they would be sent back down to the city to live out the rest of their lives but they were never the same after that.
Eril-Fane was taken by Isagol, the goddess of despair, as her lover and he ends up staging a rebellion against the gods and kills her and everyone else in the Citadel, hence how he has come to be such a hero within the city and known as the Godslayer.
He tells them the Citadel is made out of a metal they call Mesarthium. One of the gods named Skathis could control it and bend it at will and turn it into anything he wanted but the scholars of Weep have been unable to do anything with it since Skathis death. No knives, poisons, anything will even put a dent in it. Hence why he's brought them there; so that hopefully someone can figure out a way to remove the empty Citadel and restore light to the city.
What they don't realize though is that the Citadel isn't empty. When Eril-Fane slew all the gods he also went into the nursery and killed all the children so that there wouldn't be anymore "godspawn" either (hence the haunted look in his eyes; no one knows that he killed infants in the war against the Gods; he only killed 30 children though and Lazlo asks him later on what must have happened to the hundreds of others through the union of god and Tizerkane and Eril-Fane tells him he doesn't know where they are). A little girl named Minya managed to save four of the babies and hid until Eril-Fane was gone and now they are all teenagers at this point and living in the Citadel unbeknownst to the citizens of Weep. The godspawn living in the Citadel are as follows:
Sarai-a girl who every night sends hundreds of moths out of her mouth to light on the brows of the citizens of Weep. She can invade their dreams through contact with the moths, and she plants it in their heads that the Citadel mustn't even be looked at, hence how the godspawn have stayed safe from any further invasions all these years. She isn't a bad person though, and through their dreams has come to learn that although she still harbors resentment towards the humans for what they did to the other gods and godspawn, she understands how awful the gods were to them now and has forgiven them.
Sparrow- a girl who can grow plants just by touching them. She is the reason they've been able to live in the Citadel so long. When Wraith (their pet hawk) would drop seeds he got from the wilds she would grow them into food. She is in love with Feral but is too shy to say anything about it.
Minya- the godspawn who saved the other children. She never grew up though, and although her mind is on the same level as all the others, she still looks like she's only 6 years old. She is very evil and captures the spirits of the deceased of Weep when they die and keeps them prisoner. Some she uses as servants, but she tells the other godspawn that when the other ghosts disappear it's because she lets their spirits go, when in reality she's keeping them locked up in the heart of the Citadel to use as an army against the Tizerkane if they ever try to come back to the Citadel. The others don't know this because the door to the heart is only opened just wide enough for a small child to get through and Minya is the only one who still fits in there. She is the daughter of Skathis but didn't end up with his gift of being able to manipulate Mesarthium so any open/closed doors have been stuck like that since his death. It's also why they've never been able to just leave the city, since the Citadel is stuck in suspension and can't be moved.
Feral- the only boy of the group. He can control the weather and uses this ability to water the food that Sparrow grows and provides them all with drinking water. He and Ruby are sleeping together once they find out that they are about to be killed by the Tizerkane (more on that later)
Ruby- she can shoot out fire from her fingers. She is very outgoing and wild. Seduces Feral later on in the book.
Sarai learns through the newcomers dreams (all the scholars and alchemists that Eril-Fane has recruited) that they are planning to come to the Citadel to try to figure out how to move it. It is at this time that Minya reveals her ghost army to the rest of them. They are appalled that she has kept these people's souls trapped all these years but Minya tells them it's for their own good. She sets up the ghosts all around the Citadel to protect it when the Tizerkane and newcomers arrive.
It's also revealed that Sarai is the result of the union between Isagol and Eril-Fane and is Eril-Fane's daughter. She sends moths to his home now that he's back but it is actually Lazlo that is in Eril-Fane's bed since Eril is still outside the city (he sleeps out there now to prevent the nightmares of the Citadel that Sarai has planted in his head, even though he thinks he just has the nightmares because of the city itself and doesn't realize she's the one that has given them to him).
Sarai slips into Lazlos dream and is immediately taken aback by the beauty of it. He dreams of Weep, but not as it looks in real life, but the way he always imagined it, with flying banners, beautiful flowers, all types of wonderful creatures walking around together in harmony, etc. She is mesmerized by the sight of it and walks right up to Lazlo inside his dream since the dreamers can't see her when she invades with her moths. She is in shock then when Lazlo looks right at her and asks "who are you?"
She immediately removes her moth from his brow but can't resist going back in again the following night to see the beautiful city he has imagined. She realizes he's dreamed her into existence in his version of Weep now and she slips into the place of the "imposter" Sarai and begins to talk to Lazlo. Lazlo thinks that she's Isagol since he's seen photos of Isagol and Sarai looks just like her and Sarai goes along with it just so that she can learn more about him. Night after night they meet in his dreams and they end up beginning to fall in love.
One of the scholars that is brought to the city has created a flying machine buoyed up by balloons (I just picture it as a hot air balloon with some wings), and they take it up to the Citadel the next morning, even though Sarai warned Lazlo in the dream the night before that they shouldn't come up there. Lazlo thinks it's really just dreams though and so doesn't heed the warning. The balloon carries Lazlo, Eril-Fane, Azareen (Eril-Fane's wife and another warrior who had been taken by the gods when she was younger), and the pilot of the balloon.
When they arrive to the Citadel, Minya sends the ghosts out to kill them and Sarai runs out ahead of them and tells Lazlo to run because Minya is going to kill them. This is the first time that Lazlo and any of the others realize there's godspawn living in the Citadel. They fight off the ghosts and manage to escape, and Lazlo reveals to Eril-Fane that he thinks he's been dreaming about Sarai and not Isagol all along. That night when he goes to sleep she comes to him via her moths and reveals who she really is, and over the next few nights she explains about her and the others and she and Lazlo fall even more in love. Minya meanwhile is using her ghosts to keep Sarai captive in her room after what she did.
Thyon has been working on trying to create something that might melt the mesarthium anchors suspending the Citadel in place (there's four anchors around the city that are working like magnets to hold the Citadel suspended over the city). He's been drawing from his spirit to use azoth for it but it has been ineffective up until the time that Lazlo brings him some food and offers up some of his spirit since Thyon looks so weak from constantly drawing his. Thyon accepts it and sees that Lazlo's spirit in combination with the azoth does melt some of the mesarthium.
He goes to Lazlo's house in the middle of the night demanding to know what he is since it's only his spirit that works. Lazlo was in the middle of kissing Sarai in his dream so he's ticked that Thyon showed up but when Thyon keeps explaining about how his spirit worked on the mesarthium he runs out to one of the anchors so he can try to touch it and see if it does anything. Sarai follows him with her moths so that she can see what's going on.
On the way there a huge explosion happens. It is Drave, an explosionist who was brought to the city as a last resort in case no other options worked for moving the Citadel. He was tired of being made fun of by everyone else for not helping so he decided to try to blow up one of the anchors. It doesn't work of course and instead of detonating the mesarthium it sends the explosion shockwave out toward the city and downward into the ground.
The explosion kills Drave as he's running away and Lazlo is knocked out. Sarai sends her moth into his unconsciousness and realizes he's still alive since he's having a dream, but it isn't a dream about Weep this time. Instead, he's in the middle of the woods that he used to play in as a little boy and he's digging at the ground. She goes up to him and asks what he's doing and he tells her he's trying to find himself and she sees that he's dug up a feather and realizes it's one of Wraith's feathers. She's afraid he's brain damaged from the blast and tells him he needs to wake up. He does and sees that the anchor is now falling into the ground due to the earthquake happening from the blast.
The Citadel starts to tip since once of the anchors is disappearing. and without thinking Lazlo runs toward the anchor and grabs it. The power he actually has is finally felt in him and he begins to manipulate the mesarthium so that it fills in the cracks in the earth where the earthquake is happening. He also uses his manipulation powers to fold the wings of the seraphim so that light comes back into the city and the wings aren't pulling the Citadel off balance anymore.
After all this happens he looks behind him and sees Eril-Fane and a bunch of others standing there and he realizes that he is now blue when he looks at his hands. Lazlo is revealed as a godspawn. He stands there waiting for Eril to say something and swears to Eril that he had no idea what he was until that moment. He waits for his reaction to see if they'll kill him or praise him for saving the city and after a while Eril tells him "thank you for saving us".
They begin hearing screaming down the street and Lazlo remembers seeing something fall when the Citadel started to tip so he rushes to the screams and sees that Sarai has been impaled on a wrought iron fence when she fell from the Citadel as it tipped and is dead. Lazlo grabs her body and manipulates the mesarthium to create a beast to fly up to the Citadel and when he gets there he goes straight in to Minya and asks her to capture Sarai's spirit. She tries to attack him with the ghosts but he uses the mesarthium to block their way. She is mad that she's no longer in control, and tells him that she will capture Sarai's spirit. Sarai walks in and she and Lazlo embrace, then Minya takes control of Sarai and has her tell Lazlo that if he doesn't do everything Minya says that she will release Sarai's spirit into the void. He agrees to do whatever Minya says so that Sarai will still exist.
End of book 1