A girl in Remalna traditionally spends her Flower Day being feted, dancing with friends, and celebrating her passage to womanhood. Countess Meliara spends hers on the front lines of a war. She and her brother promised their dying father to free Remalna from the oppressive rule of Greedy Galdran and to preserve the vital Covenant with Remalna's aloof, unhuman Hill People. Courageous, stubborn Meliara, honorable and sharp-tongued, is determined to win or die fighting, and her hardships, uneasy alliances, and fondness for daring (foolhardy) tactics make anxious, unstoppable reading.
From School Library Journal
Grade 7-10. Short-tempered and unbelievably obtuse, Countess Meliara is a prickly and hostile heroine. Her combination of ignorance and bad judgment leads her into some sticky situations, providing occasions for her to glare, slam doors, or otherwise behave like an ill-bred child while her country is being exploited by a greedy king. Long before 200 pages end, many readers will be thoroughly tired of her. Intelligent readers won't get past the huge logical gap in the prologue: the Hill Folk had such powerful magic that Mel's people made a Covenant with them rather than face a fight, so why isn't that magic used to defeat the evil king who wants to break their Covenant? (In fact, it suddenly is, 21 pointless chapters later, just as Mel wakes up to how wrong she has been, on almost the last page.) An utterly predictable plot involving battles and strategies follows, featuring stupid mistakes and incredible rescues (feisty as Mel is, she still needs a prince, actually, a marquis here, to bail her out), is unredeemed by any felicity of style: Anglicisms ("Must say, he's been decent enough"); archaisms ("mayhap," "affright," "besorceled"); and slang ("blab," "ain't," "Looks like you got eggs in those shoes") jostle uncomfortably, often in the mouths of the same characters. The action is told, rather than shown. Reluctant readers face a plot of confusing intrigue, and some difficult vocabulary. Spare me Book II.?Patricia Lothrop-Green, St. George's School, Newport, RI
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