by Victoria Hanley
Opening line--"In the castle of Archeld, Queen Dreea sat at her loom."
Sometimes I go through Amazon's recommendations page, just to see what they think I would like. Every so often something catches my eye and I put it on the TBR list. That was the case with this one.
From the front flap: "Princess Torina lives a charmed life in the kingdom of Archeld. Then her father, King Kareed, seizes the peaceful kingdom of Bellandra--and its legendary sword, rumored able to defeat any enemy. On his return he offers Torina two gifts: a beautiful crystal and the defeated king's son, Landen, as a slave."
Overall, I felt like Hanley took what could have been a fairly stereotypical fantasy and somehow made it feel like it had integrity. There were some very interesting and nuanced characters, as well as a pretty standard baddie. I did feel like I never got a real sense of what distinguished the different countries. Oh, sure, Archeld is warlike while Bellandra is full of art and peace. But what about the smaller, everyday things--language and food and dress? I do really wish that authors would think about these things more often. Still, despite a couple of eye-roll moments (of course
Torina has red hair and green eyes), the story felt engaging.
I did notice some fairly clunky writing, however, which definitely pulled me out of the flow. I'm not finding a specific example at the moment and I think it did even out as the book progressed. PW says it's for ages 12 up, and I felt like it was in some ways because Hanley was trying to write for a younger audience and wasn't quite sure how to do it. Just as a final note--there is a LOT of death in this book, more than I would have expected for that age group.
Book source: public library
Book information: Holiday House, 2000