Out of the Flame takes place in the mid-1500's in France, and centers around the "Children of France"- the three sons and two daughters of François I, as well as a ward of the king's, Pierre de Bayard. Pierre is truly the book's protagonist.
The story begins after the return of Princes Henri and François II to France- after the nation suffered a devastating loss to the Spanish, they demanded that the two princes be retained in a dungeon in place of the King himself. They had been imprisoned for three years and Henri especially is withdrawn and on edge. It becomes apparent that he feels he has to compete with Pierre, who has lived at court and has had education and experiences that Henri himself was deprived of for three years. Pierre, with the assistance of his tutor, is struggling to maintain his demeanor and prior friendship with Henri; he is a page in the king's court and has hopes of advancing to knighthood, devoting his life to the service of king and country.
Over the course of the book, the children mature and are engaged, and Pierre continues to struggle with his desire for scholarship and his need to uphold his family's reputation and honor as a knight, two ambitions which seem inconsistent with each other. The course of history also continues, with the various children becoming betrothed and then married, being amazed by a visiting delegation of North American Native Americans, and Pierre being briefly kidnapped by pirates loyal to Spain.
Other bloggers have complained of the blandness of this book. Frankly, I disagree. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Yes, there was more dialogue than action at many times, but it was an easy read where I certainly learned a lot.