Crown Princess Samantha's life begins to fall apart when she starts seeing strange colors around her potential suitors. She fears that she's going insane--or worse that she's defying the Goddess's will. Robrek is a lowly farm boy with incredible magical powers. He has been biding his time waiting to get revenge on those who call him a demon.
Thrown together by chance, they must overcome their differences to fight their common enemy Duke Argblutal, who, with dark magic, is slowly poisoning the king's mind and turning him against his own daughter. Time is running out for those chosen by the Goddess to prevent the power mad duke from usurping the throne and plunging the joined kingdoms into civil war.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.83(d)|
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"Please, no!" Robbie Angusstamm screamed as his father's heavy strap came whistling down on his bare back. He tried to yank his hands free, but his brother Boyden held his wrists tightly against the dining room table. Sulis curse it! Why do I have to be such a worthless weakling? He promised himself he wouldn't scream again, but he screamed just as loudly the next time the strap hit.
"Sleeping by the river in the middle of the goddess-cursed afternoon! How many times must I beat you before you learn responsibility, boy?" His father brought the strap down even harder.
"I didn't mean to!" But Robbie's explanation turned into screams of pain as the strap landed again and again.
Robbie let out a humiliating whimper when his father finally stepped away and Boyden let go of his wrists. Clutching a chair for support, Robbie struggled to hold back his tears. By the goddess, don't let them see me cry.
His father towered over him. "Learned your lesson, boy?" Angus Camlinstamm was the largest man in the Valley, even bigger than the village blacksmith. Although Angus had become a bit round about the middle, he was still strong as a team of plow horses. His blonde hair, flowing past his shoulders, was only just starting to show some gray. His broad face was red, both from anger and exertion. "Well? Have you?" he demanded when Robbie didn't answer at once.
"Yes, sir," Robbie said, ashamed of how pathetic he sounded.
"I'm not going to have to send your brother looking for you again, am I, boy?"
"All right, then. Stop lazing around like a fool and get your chores done." Angus hung the strap on its peg by the door. "If you finish before dinner's over, I may consider letting you join us."
Like that will ever happen! Robbie clutched at his empty stomach, knowing he'd get nothing to eat before breakfast. Careful of the welts on his back, he pulled on his shirt, which was made from crude homespun. Although Angus could afford better, he didn't believe in wasting coin on workday clothing. His father and brother had better quality clothes for holy days and other special occasions, but Robbie didn't.
As he passed through the kitchen, one of the servants quickly drew the star of Sulis in the air to ward off his evil. He hated it when people did that, but how could he blame them? His reflection in the shiny pots that hung from the kitchen wall showed dark black hair--the color of night and demons. Green eyes, unlike those of the children of the goddess. Skin, darker than natural. He was also so short his brother called him a worm.
Outside, Robbie drew two large buckets of water from the well. He staggered toward the barn, the weight of the buckets bending him forward and pressing his shirt against his back. Praying none of the servants or farmhands would see him, he set the buckets down and emptied some of the water. His father would beat him again if he knew, and Boyden would laugh at his weakness. Boyden could carry hundred-pound sacks of grain as if they contained feathers. Boyden was everything their father wanted in a son.
Boyden hadn't killed their mother.
When he reached the barn door, he shouted for Allyn or Darien to open it, but no one came. The two farmhands were supposed to help him with the animals, but this wouldn't be the first time they'd used Robbie getting in trouble as an excuse for taking the night off. They knew he wouldn't risk another beating by telling on them.
Robbie sat the buckets down to open the door. The barn was large, with plenty of room for the dozen cows, ten horses, and four mules as well as for the large pig and her half-dozen piglets. When he entered, the cows mooed happily. The horses and mules neighed and stomped their feet in greeting. A bird whose wing he'd mended flew down from the rafters, landed on his shoulder, and nibbled his ear affectionately. The animals' joy seeped into his body like a warm, living current, strengthening him against both exhaustion and pain. Animals couldn't sense the evilness in his soul. Only here was he loved.
The animals' welcome quickly turned to cries of thirst. Cursing himself for making them wait so long for water, he began filling up the water troughs. He hadn't meant to fall asleep by the river, but he'd been up most of the night helping a neighbor's goat with a difficult birth. "It will be alright. Robbie's here now. Just be patient, and I'll get water for all of you." Knowing they could depend on him, the animals all quieted.
It took several more trips to the well to get enough water, and by the time he'd finished, he saw spots in front of his eyes. But he was far from finished.
When he started the milking, the large, gray-striped barn cat twined around his legs, mewing for attention. "Hello, Ronan. Taking care of the mice and rats for me?"
:Of course.: Ronan licked his paws as if getting the last taste of a recent kill. :Good hunting.: Robbie didn't exactly hear Ronan's words; it was more that he got an image or feeling from the cat's mind. He didn't know why he could understand animals; he'd always been able to. Perhaps it was another sign of his demon blood.
Robbie placed the milk in the icehouse. He then turned to cleaning the stalls and feeding the animals. When he entered Wild Thing's stall, the mare neighed. :Wild Thing stomp father bully to mash.: Robbie hugged his horse around the neck.
With Wild Thing, communication had always been particularly strong, and her mind seemed much more complex than other animals' because Wild Thing wasn't a normal horse. Four years ago he'd found the days-old foal out on the plains, near the body of her dead mother. She'd been half-mad with hunger and fear. Her brilliant coloring, somewhere between chestnut and auburn, and the stars on her chest and forehead made it obvious she was a Horsetad. The herd of wild horses roamed free on the plains of Lundia, and people said they could never be tamed. The origin of the Horsetads was highly debated. Ages ago, some said Sulis herself had ridden her chariot in the land, and her horses had mixed with those of earthly origin. Others said the Horsetads had escaped from the seven hells and their demon masters and were forever unwilling to allow anyone to master them again.
Rubbing his face against her, Robbie choked back a sob. "Wild Thing, girl, why can't I do anything right? Why did I have to be born evil?"
Wild Thing stomped her hoof. :Not evil. Robbie good.:
Robbie knew she was wrong, but he didn't argue. Many in the
Valley thought Wild Thing was a demon herself.
Very late, he finally stumbled up to bed. Despite his hunger and the pain in his back, he was so tired he fell almost immediately asleep.
* * *
Early in the morning, Robbie stirred. He winced as he sat up. But he knew the pain in his back wouldn't last too long. His demon blood made him heal more quickly than normal people. Struggling to his feet, he carefully got dressed, brushed the tangles from his long, curly hair, and tied it back with a strip of leather. Wondering if he'd ever grow a beard, he felt the smoothness of his face. At sixteen, a lot of boys had at least some hair on their faces. Then again, who ever heard of a demon with a beard?
As he left his room, he was nearly brought to his knees and just avoided crying out. It took him a moment to realize that this time the pain wasn't his own. He blocked it away and hurried outside to find the injured animal. A faint mewing came from the other side of the barn. He followed it and found Ronan covered in blood. Trembling, Robbie knelt beside the cat and stroked his head. No, not Ronan! "What happened to you, boy? Don't worry, Robbie's here." Robbie cradled the cat in his arms and carried him inside the barn where he kept his medicines.
As Robbie examined the injury, he sighed in relief. "It's not as bad as I thought, my boy. Some of this blood isn't yours. Got a few licks in yourself, did you?" Ronan mewed feebly, and Robbie saw an image of Ronan fighting several overgrown rats. Robbie cleaned the wound carefully and treated it with one of his salves. Robbie couldn't explain how he knew how to make his remedies. No one had taught him. Certain plants just seemed to make good medicines, and certain medicines felt as if they'd help a particular problem.
As he rubbed in the salve, a trickle of energy moved through his fingers into Ronan. The sensation resembled other men's descriptions of the pleasure to be found with a woman. Ronan's wound began to heal. Holy Sulis, what is this I do? If being a demon feels this good, maybe I shouldn't mind being one!
By the time Robbie finished bandaging the wound, Ronan had drifted into a peaceful sleep. He carried the cat to a spot where it could sleep without being disturbed. "You'll be fine, Ronan, my boy. I'm not so sure about me, though." His father wouldn't be happy he'd spent all this time healing a cat, especially after the beating he'd given him yesterday for neglecting his chores. Angus didn't consider cats important animals.
Realizing he'd have to forego breakfast to get the chores done on time, he put his hand over his empty stomach.
* * *
After completing the morning chores, Robbie found his father outside the barn talking to Cullen Bevinstamm, a neighboring farmer. "You think I have no use for the boy myself?"
"Angus, you know I wouldn't ask if I wasn't desperate. This is my only plow horse. If she dies, I won't be able to feed my family."
"Is your horse sick, sir?" Robbie asked.
The farmer glanced nervously at Robbie, and his father snapped, "Stay out of this, boy." Angus turned back toward the farmer. "Just what do I get out of letting him go with you?"
"Angus, you know all my money's gone into seed, but I'll pay you a tetra at harvest."
Angus scowled. "How do you know you'll even have a harvest?"
Robbie clenched his fists. Why can't he ever think of anything but money? If the horse is sick, I have to help. "What's wrong with your horse, sir?"
"Boy, I told you to stay out of it!" His father rounded on him. "Do you need another lesson?"
Robbie clenched his fists even tighter, but he didn't dare say anything more.
"Do you have any of your wife's preserves left?" Angus asked the farmer. Cullen's wife was rumored to make the best preserves in the Valley, not that Robbie had ever tasted any.
The man nodded, glancing nervously at Robbie. "Yes, I think there are four or five jars."
"Send all you have back with the boy, and I'll wait for the money." Angus stomped back to the farmhouse without even looking at him.
Cullen licked his lips nervously, and Robbie looked down at his feet. "Your horse?" he asked, still not meeting the man's eyes.
Cullen backed farther away as he explained what was wrong with his plow horse. It sounded like the lung sickness. He fetched his supplies and saddled Wild Thing.
On the ride to his farm, Cullen stayed far away and said nothing. Robbie tried not to mind. Farmers came to him because he was far better at treating animals than anyone else in the Valley, but Robbie knew they wished they had another choice.
When they neared the farm, Cullen rode a little closer. "Just so you know, I've sent my wife and children to her sister's for the day."
Just what do you think I'd do to them? I'd never hurt a woman or a child. I'd never hurt anybody. But even as he thought it, he knew it was a lie. Couldn't his demon blood cause harm even if he didn't mean it to? It had killed his own mother.
They dismounted in front of Cullen's small stable. Cullen had far fewer animals than Angus: a single cow, a few chickens, the sick plow horse, and the old mule he'd ridden to fetch Robbie. The farmer led him inside, still careful to keep his distance. As soon as Robbie entered, his lungs tightened, making it difficult to breathe. A bay gelding coughed and wheezed. Talking in his usual soothing tones, he approached. "Hello, old boy, not feeling so well, are you? It'll be okay.
Robbie touched the horse to be sure of the extent of the illness. "He has the lung sickness, like I thought."
He had the man light a brazier, and he set about brewing a remedy for the horse. "I'll give this to him now, but he'll need the dose repeated three times a day for a week. Come fetch me again if he's not acting better in a day or so." As he put herbs of differing amounts into the mixture, he explained the process to the farmer.
"Sounds a bit complicated," Cullen said. "I'll fetch you some paper and ink, and you can write it down."
"I have better things to do than writing down remedies," Robbie snapped. He wasn't about to admit he was too stupid to either read or write. Father Gildas hadn't allowed him to attend the temple school, claiming the knowledge of the goddess shouldn't be shared with the seed of demons.
* * *
Just after noon, Robbie started back to his father's farm with three jars of strawberry and two jars of peach preserves in his saddlebags. His stomach ached with hunger, and his head swam so badly he feared he might fall off Wild Thing. Cullen hadn't offered him so much as a piece of bread, and healing left him ravenously hungry, especially for sweets. By the time he reached home, the noon meal would be over, and there'd be nothing to eat until supper.
As he took a shortcut through the woods, he got out one of the jars of preserves. "My girl, do you think my father would ever know there were five jars instead of four?"
Wild Thing's ears flicked in answer. :Robbie hungry. Wild Thing hungry. Nice grass there. Nice jar thing here.:
Wild Thing was suggesting they stop at the abandoned stable up ahead. He'd found this stable when he was twelve, during one of his wanderings through the woods looking for plants for his remedies. The stable consisted of a small barn with four stalls and a fenced-in paddock with grass for grazing. A small stream ran alongside it, and it had been in surprisingly good condition for an abandoned structure. He'd fixed it up to use as a private retreat. Stopping beside the stream, he opened the jar and reveled in the sticky sweetness of the fruit; it was the best preserves he'd ever tasted. Before heading home, he made sure to wash any sign of the preserves from his hands and face.
* * *
In Robbie's dreams that night, the demon lady came to him. He'd dreamed of her for as long as he could remember. She always dressed in clothing more brightly colored than any he'd ever seen; tonight she wore scarlet, trimmed with bright silver braiding. Like him, the lady had black hair, green eyes, and dark skin. As a child he'd longed for sleep, where he could curl up in her arms and listen to her stories and songs. But as he'd gotten older, the dreams had begun to trouble him. If demons loved him, didn't it mean he was as evil as people said he was?
Tonight she approached through a fog of mist, sunlight forming a halo around her. She hugged him to her chest. "I love you. You won't always be alone."CHAPTER 2
The Princess Samantha sat at her dressing table and glowered at her reflection as her maids dressed her hair. She detested balls and loathed the hundreds of suitors who flocked around her: "I have never seen a lovelier flower, Your Highness!" or "Your eyes rival the brilliance of the stars, Your Highness!" If I hear that one again, I'll vomit. It wouldn't be quite so bad if even one of them meant it. Sometimes she wished ... She pushed the thought away. As the heir to the throne, she couldn't expect romance.
"Let us be painting your face tonight, Your Highness!" Ardra begged. Samantha's maid was as small and slight as the princess herself and had hair so blonde it was almost white. The princess smiled at the quaintness of her speech. Although both Ardra and Malvina had been in Murtaghan for over ten years, they still hadn't lost the peculiarities of their western Lundian accents.
"Yes, Your Highness," Malvina chimed in. "Lady Shela's maids said just yesterday we couldn't possibly be knowing our business 'cause you never be wearing paint." Malvina, more of a typical Korthlundian woman, was tall and broad and not nearly as pretty as Ardra.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Goddess's Choice The Kronicles of Korthlundia Book 1"
Copyright © 2017 Jamie Marchant.
Excerpted by permission of Bewitching Fables Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Marchant’s Sword & Sorcery tale is marvelous. Meet the peasant boy, Robbie, born with an uncanny ability to heal animals. With the aid of an herb witch he discovers how powerful he could be—the most powerful sorcerer the kingdom has seen in centuries, the witch tells him—if only he could learn to truly forgive the villagers, his brother, his father, and the local priest. They revile him, some even wanting to see him burn at the stake, on account of his magic. Meet the young princess, Samantha. Her father, the great king Solar, has kept the peace in the joined kingdom of Korthlundia for fifty years. But he has reached the ripe old age of ninety, and Samantha is being pressured to choose a consort, no mere woman acceptable to the nobles as worthy of reigning on her own. When Samantha “began to bleed in the way of women,” she started seeing colors glowing around people—their auras, revealing to her their inner nature. She is thus “an aurora,” but her gift will not function consistently until she bears a child. It has, however, functioned reliably enough to show her that her suitors lust after the crown and have no love for her for herself—indeed, they wish to reduce her to the status of consort and rule in their own right. Meet Argblutal, the most powerful, dastardly, and despicable of these suitors. Desiring to commit the most brutal, sadistic acts upon the princess’s person, he sets in motion a plot that will plunge the kingdom into civil war. Meet Darhour, the captain of Samantha’s personal guard. Fierce and loyal, he yet harbors a secret that could bring about the princess’s ultimate downfall. More marvelous characters and creatures, both good and evil, populate Marchant’s universe. The princess and the peasant boy meet by chance and are taken with each other, but their life circumstances throw them apart. In Marchant’s deftly woven plot, Robbie and Samantha struggle, separately and together, to use their powers to save the kingdom—and perhaps to find true love. I don’t consider myself a fantasy reader, but I was enthralled by Marchant’s characters and story. She does an amazing job at juggling the multitudinous characters and the various plot lines, everything coming together at the end. And too bad it had to end—I wanted the story to go on forever. I eagerly await the sequel.
Oh my my my, this is the first time I've read Jamie Marchant but it won't be the last. This is a great beginning for a series. I can't wait for more of this, I want to say more about this story but I absolutely hate spoilers, so I won't go into details. Reasons I enjoyed this book: Witty, Romantic, Wonderful characters, Page-turner, Great world building, Unpredictable, Original, Easy-to-read, Entertaining, Action-packed. Bookshelves/tags: Choose shelves... adventure, cliffhanger, fantasy, favorites, nonhuman, paranormal, romance, series, tragic, young-adult. I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
Seeing people’s character through their auras would come in handy, right? Wish I had that ability when I bought one of my cars… For Samantha, her ability could be deadly, she is the princess of the realm and evil is stalking her father’s kingdom. The day she met Robrek, an outcast commoner, his aura was like none she had ever seen. He was able to heal and “ talk” with animals and his pure goodness and power was as colorful as a rainbow, but the pain and suffering he has endured at the hands of his family and village have left scars. As the king is slowly poisoned, and the day of choosing a husband draws near, Samantha discovers who is behind the plot to overthrow her father and kill her. Together, Robrek and Samantha must learn to trust each other, their powers and the budding romance between two unlikely people. Frightened of his power and the damage he could do, Robrek may die at the stake in a fury of flames, but will the good in others save him? Together these two have power beyond imagining, and it is up to them to save the kingdom and prevent the loss of good lives. Can Robrek overcome the memories of the treatment he has faced for Samantha? Fantasy in historical times, where kings, knights and fair maidens can be magical, where horses are mystical, and danger, fear and love are strong. Welcome to The Goddess’s Choice and travel to a time and place that comes to life under the skill of Jamie Marchant’s words and imagination. This is not a quick read to forget, the turmoil is tense, the hidden evils are spine tingling and the inner goodness of the main characters will make you feel good about meeting them! Robrek’s past will shred your heart; the emotional journey he must learn to deal with is vicious, making it difficult not to want to come to his aid. Samantha and her loyal head guard have a relationship that will warm your heart, as he is a true protector and clearly cares for her. The princess is far from spoiled, very headstrong and will do anything for her people and her father, but hers is another uphill battle to be heard. Jamie Marchant has given us characters to believe in, and cheer for, evil that is despicable and a journey into another time and place that will be memorable. Wonderful writing, beautifully magnetic, fantasy to escape in and enjoy! I received a review copy from Jamie Marchant in exchange for my honest review.
The beginning for me was a little bit choppy. I had wanted Jamie to explain the characters backgrounds, ethnicity since they were a foreign fantasy type, and their goddess herself. It was almost like a world of its own. The Goddess Danu was a sorceress praised like a religious figure whose bloodline carried on the throne. Samantha a young princess, who in my opinion needed more time to mature, was very troubled by the pressure of finding a suitor to marry. It was hard for me to connect with Samantha at first, and even through out the book I felt like I was losing sight of her. Sometimes she could sound humble and caring, yet at the same time she was calculating and rude. Taking her station for granted and talking down to her workers, yet she was upset when she seen others mistreat peasants and people of lower class. I felt like her personality was all over the place until I got deeper into the book and she took on a more one dimensional frame. My favorite character was Robbie. His background reminded me of Arthur from the Sword in the stone with a mixture of Cinderella, with an abusive father and older brother, a penchant for being bullied easily. I wanted him to fight for himself. If he possessed power…why didn’t he use it? Why weren’t they so afraid of him they cowered in his presence? As I got deeper into the book I began to like it, although at first I didn’t think I would because I felt like I couldn’t get a great connection in the beginning. As the story progressed the reader is given insight into the two kingdoms that merged to form one, the King’s secrets and a binding love that surpasses magic, hate and misunderstanding. It turned out to be a very enjoyable book.
Let me start by saying I loved this book from start to finish, it was a great read and I was deeply engrossed in the book and the writting. If that's what your looking for read no further, just go and read this book!! However if you want to know my full opinion keep reading... This was a fantastic, well written and very interesting book! Even from the first chapter I was completely drawn in, not only by the way the author has written this book but also by the characters. Samantha is such a relateable character, she's easy to like but as with all good characters has her flaws. Marchant has done a great job with the flow of Samantha from a innocent young princess to a Beautiful young lady. Marchant has built a princess who makes you truely belive in magic. Then we have Robbie who is a strong, reliable character who you can't help but feel empathy for. I found myself willing him to keep going because for a boy with nothing to loose he has so much oomph and drive. The twists and suprises this book threw at me almost made me cry they were beautiful, terrifying and horrible all at once. This made for a really great read. I love how even when you hate a character or someones role in the story soooooo much (and believe me i hated my fair share of characters) it's totally neccasary and has a reason. There's meaning behind every single line in the book, you really have to pay attention to whats happening no matter how small it might seem because it's all part of the bigger picture. I really enjoyed the time period that this book was set in, the author does what i concidered a fantastic job of giving you enough detail incase you don't know much but not dumbing it down to being boring. I didn't find myself bored with the explanations, I honestly just couldn't wait to finish to know how it ends. Which brings me to another thing I liked, which was the way the book ends (I wont give any spoilers) I just really liked that the ending was enough that I would be happy for it to end now but it could keep going for a sequel easily. If there was no more books I would be like 'well i'm ok with that' there's no unanswered questions or story left open ended that I cant deal with. However I could see a very exciting sequel too. I would highly recommend a mature audience for this book as there are some scenes that made me cringe and grit my teeth. The ONLY issue I had was the names... I know I know it's a stupid thing to dislike. BUT I found myself re-reading a paragraph or two because I was lost on who was talking/who was doing what because I couldn't get my head around the names. I just found it a little harder to get a firm image in my head initially and their names are the only reason. This really didn't take away from the plot or the writting skills but I thought it could have been made a bit more flowing.
This was an awesome read! Now, I first have to warn you that this is absolutely an 18+ read. There is some sexual bits and language. With that out of the way, let me just say I was sucked into this story from the moment I began. The story moves along at a very good pace, not too fast but not slow, either. The world is well developed as are the characters. It kept me up long into the night, reading. I didn't want to put it down until I was finished. Samantha is a strong female character and Robrek is her equal. Neither of them make the other feel inferior. The other characters are just as developed and hold their own in the story. There were two instances I wanted closure from, but feel I didn't get, but that's okay. It leaves room for me and my imagination to hope that it did come about. The only other issue I have with this book is it could have had another proofread. But the typos weren't so overwhelming as to affect the flow of the story. I did also contact the author about the formatting of the ebook for Kindle, but again, I didn't let that stop me from reading. This. Book! If you like epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, you'll like this book. Jamie Marchant is an author to keep an eye out for. I'll absolutely be picking up other books!
I absolutely loved this story. I finished in less than one discharge of my iPad (I was up 'till 4:30 in the morning, but I finished it). I simply couldn't put it down. The Goddess's Choice is based on a Norwegian legend I've never heard of, but you can clearly see the classic elements of old world legends in the telling. It is bloody and gruesome at times (think Grimm's Fairy Tales gruesome), there is magic and mystery, and the three magical horses just scream myths and legends to me. Samantha is a strong heroine in the story, unusual for the old world. Even in the story, it is clear that many are not happy with having a woman in such a position of power). I like her a lot and it pains me to see what she has to go through in the story to come out on top, the people she has to lose. Robrek, the hero of the story, frustrated me for most of the story, even while I was rooting for him to escape the nightmare his reality is and get the girl. He fights his destiny for much of the story (thus my frustration) and has difficulty letting go of the past so he can have a future. I hated the people that abused him just as much as he did and it pained me to watch as those that should have nurtured and protected him, should have been his friends, turned on him. All in all, I really enjoyed this book and if you like romances or books with magic and knights, you'll probably like this story.
I found this book through a website which indie authors use to contact each other, and I’m glad I did. I’m a fan of the fantasy genre and I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The plot may be derived from a fairy tale, but it’s quite clear that the author has developed her own original storyline which grabbed my attention and kept me reading. The author’s main talent, however, is in creating fascinating characters. The hero and heroine are complex individuals with as many problems as virtues. The main villain is truly nasty (you’ll absolutely hate him) yet other ‘bad’ characters are subtly drawn. For example, the hero’s father and brother treat him cruelly but later you come to understand why they became the way they are. By the end, you may even sympathize a little with the father, which is something you won’t believe is possible after reading the first chapter. Even minor characters with small roles to play come across as complete human beings. There are quite a few of them, but my favorite example is Vaughn, the twelve year old stable boy who makes his own small heroic contribution. Some of these characters have complicated back-stories which are gradually revealed, especially the heroine’s father. (I won’t say more to avoid a spoiler.) A great deal of magic is in the story but none of it seems to be of the ‘ordinary’ type found in many sword-and-sorcery books. The plot is full of twists and turns which will keep you guessing, including harrowing escapes from dungeons and some misunderstandings which threaten to thwart the course of true-love. Does it have a happy ending? Well, you’ll find out. I recommend this highly and look forward to any sequels.