Landish Druken, son of a Newfoundland sealing captain, is a formidable figure - broader than most doorways, quick-witted and sharp-tongued. He turns his back on family tradition and leaves St John's to head to Princeton University, where he is befriended by 'Van' Vanderluyden, son of the wealthiest man in America. When Landish is betrayed by Van he is banished from Princeton and his hopes crumble.
Back in St John's, Landish adopts an orphan, Deacon. With nothing but trust, humour and compassion, he raises Deacon alone until poverty leaves them with nowhere to turn, but to Van. They journey to North Carolina where Van has built Vanderland, a huge and magnificent castle. There they are swiftly pulled into Van's web of lies and deceit, and Landish and Deacon's bond is truly tested.