CASSANDRA MORROW is thirty and fed up with her unfulfilling life in San Francisco. Six months ago, her mother-slash-best-friend died unexpectedly, sending Cassandra into a deep depression. Wishing to pay tribute to her memory, Cass performs a “money drawing” ritual from her mother’s Wiccan spellbook. A week later, an ATM on an empty street starts spitting out cash. Cass pockets over twenty-grand. A lifelong nature lover, she uses this opportunity to flee the city and revive her spirits in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
Determined to use the money selflessly, Cass sets about transforming a local inn into a women’s shelter. Until the inn is habitable, she’ll crash with MILES, an ex-hookup who lives in the same small town. Miles is sweet (even a bit smitten), but Cass is wary about falling in love. She also gains the attention of DEVIN: Miles’ neighbor at their backwoods apartment complex. Devin is a single father who, unbeknownst to his neighbors, coaxed his late wife into committing suicide. Ever since, he’s been tormented by mysterious emails from a witness who knows Devin finished the job himself.
Cass begins having strange visions of a young boy lost in the woods—only to discover the child is real and has been missing for weeks. The boy’s body is soon found on a nearby mountain. The cause of death is listed as exposure, though police are puzzled as to why the boy wandered into the wilderness. After some research, Cass discovers the town’s history of children being drawn inexplicably into the woods to die under similar circumstances.
One afternoon, Cassandra’s mind is invaded by an entity that calls itself THE LANDLORD. The Landlord tempts Cass with visions of a verdant Earth—the lush future she’s always longed for, where nature is free from humanity’s ecological destruction. “Together, we will remake the world,” the Landlord promises. However, Cass panics and refuses to accept the invitation. She awakes on the verge of death, choking on dollar bills she apparently swallowed herself.
Enthralled by the Landlord’s vision—yet determined to prevent further tragedy—Cassandra delves deeper into the region’s mysteries. One night, while investigating the mountain where the child died, Cass stumbles upon a pagan cult. They relate legends of “the Fair Folk:” nature spirits that steal the souls of mankind’s most radiant. Those human souls are transformed into spirits, who will dwell eternally in a paradise called Over Yonder (Southern slang for the Celtic Otherworld). But now the Fair Folk are planning some kind of massive undertaking, and they want Cass to be a main player.
With the help of a local PI, Cass learns her apartment’s owners recently bought property in places rumored to be “portals to the Otherworld,” including the apartment complex itself. Her suspicions linger on Miles, who sometimes speaks in musical tones, thrilling her with a strange allure. She begins to think he might have been in the room the day she was attacked by the Landlord. He’s also been lying about where he goes during the day.
When she confronts him, Cass is floored to learn Miles is a fairy changeling who lured her to North Carolina on purpose. Stewards of nature fed up with humanity’s abuse, the Fair Folk are planning a full-scale invasion of the physical world. They will then perform a massive culling—selecting mankind’s most spiritually radiant and wiping out the rest. The Landlord, a local warlock, will help them open the portal. However, he can’t do it alone, which is why he desires Cass—a natural witch with untapped talents. The invasion will take place regardless of her participation.
Though her life is at risk, Cass refuses to leave the apartment complex. She moves in with Devin and LILLY, his six-year-old daughter. She performs a three-day ritual to summon the Landlord, with whom she hopes to negotiate a peaceful solution. The ritual works; the Landlord appears in spectral form. But a revelation concerning Devin’s dead wife causes violence to erupt among neighbors. As bullets fly, the Landlord extends his final invitation to the Otherworld. Hoping to protect Lilly, whom she has come to care for deeply, Cass ditches Devin and Miles and takes the leap with Lilly in her arms.
Cassandra awakens in a fantastical, underground world. Lilly is missing, so Cass embarks on a desperate search through the tunnels. At last, she finds her in the Landlord’s hidden lounge. In the flesh, the Landlord is revealed to be an aging, hippie record collector still longing for revolution. He plans to host a music festival on the mountain, where he’ll slay twenty thousand attendees in a fire. This sacrifice, along with his coven’s magical efforts, will “open up the mountain,” allowing the Fair Folk to enter the physical world freely. The Landlord desires not only Cassandra’s magical talents, but also her companionship. In her, he sees a kindred, revolutionary soul.
Cass is horrified. She believes people can still save the planet on their own—if they reject modern distractions and get back to loving nature. She refuses to help. Enraged, the Landlord attacks in the form of a bipedal serpent, but she shields herself and Lilly in a magic circle. Maimed, the Landlord flees. Though she can stay forever in the heavenly Otherworld, Cass returns to the real world to stop him.
However, time passes differently in the Otherworld, and she and Lilly return three hundred years in the future. The Fair Folks’ culling of humanity has worked. A family of fairy changelings awaits them on the other side of the portal. Lilly, now revealed to be a changeling herself, runs to join them. Prepared for her arrival, the father shoots Cassandra in the stomach. Crawling and wounded, she remains defiant. She now realizes the importance of martyrdom and selflessness, even in the face of inevitable doom. She vows to keep fighting, even if it means returning in a new life. Still hell-bent on her mission, she gnashes her teeth and approaches her fate head-on.