Next up: “The Seer and the Sword” by Victoria Hanley
A young adult, bordering on older children’s, book. There are semi-sequel/companion books set in the same world that reference the same characters, but this book can stand alone.
Torina is the daughter of a warrior king, Princess of a country that is bent on conquering its neighboring kingdoms. The book opens with the triumphant return of King Kareed from the battle with Bellandra. He brings with him two gifts for his young daughter– a crystal orb given to him by an elderly woman, and the prince of the conquered country as a slave. But Torina’s first act is to free Landen, who is subsequently given the opportunity to become a soldier in Archeld’s army. Though he had always been taught to embrace peace, he accepts the position.
As they grow up, Torina and Landen become friends. Landen becomes an accomplished soldier, and teaches Torina to shoot a bow. Torina also learns that the crystal orb is a seeing stone– it shows her visions of the future. One day, it shows her a vision of her father dying at the hand of a traitor. Though Torina tries to stop it, the vision comes to pass, and everything starts to fall apart. The traitor takes over the throne of Archeld, Landen must flee, Torina is blackmailed into using her stone for the usurper king, and tensions rise between Archeld and another neighboring country. Torina and Landen each must use their wits and skills to keep war from breaking out, and to save Archeld from its oppressive king.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s a very simple read, but it’s well-executed. It’s old-school high fantasy, with pseudo-medieval kingdoms and magic objects. It’s a style of story-telling that is very comfortable, and that I have always really enjoyed. The prose isn’t too flowery; descriptions paint in simple strokes what the world is like, without becoming bogged down in extensive detail. Metaphors are used to add color to the world, but you’re not wading through pages of it.
The character development is really pronounced in this book– both Landen and Torina change from the children they are at the beginning to competent adults at the end; their experiences and hardships over the course of the book shaping them even as they maintain the core of who they are. It’s exactly what you want to see in a story. Aside from Torina and Landen, there are other characters that I really enjoyed– particularly King Dahmis and his crew.
I also like the romance in the story, because it isn’t an all-consuming love-at-first-sight sort that is frequently used in YA books. The seed of the romance is planted in their childhoods, and though they care for each other, they don’t define themselves by each other. They are their own people, and they do their own things, until circumstance allows them to reunite, at which point they find their feelings for each other maturing. I’m always for depictions of romance where the couple are friends before they fall in love.