Disappointing, but at least I only paid $.50 for it. I love Connie Willis's other work, but this one didn't do it for me. The setting was interesting enough: the world of Mahali is comprised largely of desert, with the water controlled for generations by "water witches", whose sensitivity to and mastery of the element allowed them to direct available water to specific areas, including changing the course of rivers to drain the underground chambers that now house their capital city. Over time, however, fewer and fewer inherited the trait, and the role of the water witch became more ceremonial, with the witches themselves called "priests", and actual control of the water relegated to an elaborate computer system. The last of the hereditary rulers of the city have all died or fled due to various plots and coups. Now the city is under the rule of Sheria, who wears the outward symbols of the water witch, but has no actual power of her own.
A new wave of colonists has recently arrived from the original home planet of the inhabitants of Mahali; there has been no contact between them in generations (perhaps centuries) due to civil wars and other conflicts there. These new immigrants are far out of step with the lifestyle of a water-poor society, and some of them see Mahali's few resources only as things to exploit for their own profit.
Deza, a young Mahali woman con artist, has recently been part of the household of a powerful and wealthy colonist, called only The Tycoon. At her father's instigation, Deza had planned to seduce the Tycoon's heir and then get the family to pay her off to leave him alone. Unexpectedly, her father changes their plans and the two flee the estate, only to meet with disaster when their hovercraft crashes and her father is killed. Trying to survive in the hostile environment, she meets Radi, a prince of the city and Sheria's fiance, traveling in disguise, and to her dismay he takes her right back to the Tycoon's stronghold, where he intends to uncover what plot the newcomer is hatching. Deza has been passing herself off as a water witch - but her ploy is much less of a lie than she believes it to be. Together they try to maintain their respective pretenses and save their world.