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Thirteen-year-old Bay hates carving. Which wouldn't be such a big deal if his guardians weren't bauble makers. They carve the charms from lost things—items the sea stole during the storm season, infused with its magic, and spat back out again. (Except bones. No self-respecting bauble maker calls spirits back from the Far Islands.) When Bay's misshapen fish bauble summons a whale instead, he's only saved by the quick thinking of Ritt, the dune hunter's apprentice. The village dock? It doesn't fare so well.

Bay's knack for accidental destruction doesn't scare away Ritt or his boss, the dune hunter. Becoming her second apprentice means a new, wonderful life for Bay, scouring the island's dunes for lost things to sell. But he soon learns his new friend has found trouble worse than a whale. And that trouble has the look of bones and spirits about it.

Drawn into the outlawed bone trade, Bay helps Ritt hide bones and sneaks out to midnight meetings with bone carvers. But when people all over the island turn up dead, and rumors spread that a bone carver might be to blame, Bay must hunt for the truth before he and his friends end up in a dune.