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on September 17, 2017
The Inda series captivated me to such a degree that I've been wanting to extend my stay in Sartorias-deles, and after finishing Crown Duel I was eager to read more about the Marquis of Shevraeth.

At this point - five books deep into the wonderfully crafted world of Sartorias-deles - it's difficult to really react to individual volumes rather than how they tie in with everything else. For example, it's so fascinating to be back where Inda started - in the royal capital's Academy barracks - centuries later and see how much has changed, and how much is still the same. And reading about Vidanric's training and struggles to accept the political reality of his home in Remalna is made all the more poignant by knowing what his future has in store for him.

But those same things that were highlights for me might be confusing for newcomers - in the same way that I found the ongoing background plot with characters that clearly have their own stories that I have not yet read to be strange pitfalls. Or maybe not pitfalls - more like teases, piquing my interest without revealing much of anything. I wish there had been more of the Norsunder/Sartor plot intertwined with Vidanric's tale, rather than available in separate books.

I also missed the casual references to queer characters and relationships that were such a key part of the Inda series.
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on December 8, 2013
I first read "Crown Duel" in eighth grade, I read it so many times that year that I had to use tape to keep my lovely paperback copy from falling apart. Like almost all females I was drawn to Vidanric's character mostly because there were so many hidden nuances and hints that the character was fascinating. When I found "A Stranger to Command" a decade after first reading "Crown Duel" I purchased it immediately and could not put it down. Like most of her books the plot moves along nicely. This one does differ in that it occurs over the course of several years. What fascinated me was how well she subtly grew her characters from boys and girls to young men and women. Also her changes between cultures and color palettes and Vidanric's struggle to adjust were very well done. At the end Savona places a wager on a certain occurrence and if you have read "Crown Duel" you start snickering to yourself because you know only half of it will come true.
Anyway, I have returned to this book several times in the past few months but I can never seem to put it down once I start it again. It is a very good read and I strongly recommend it. Enjoy!
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on November 20, 2017
It's Sherwood Smith - she hasn't written anything I don't like (except the part of the Inda series where alternate life-styles were at the forefront). She writes in a way that even a simple walk to the grocery store is exhilarating!
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on April 14, 2013
This book is a great coming of age story, and particularly compelling for anyone who has ever moved to a new place (especially a foreign country) and had to figure things out. The characters are well-drawn. It could have used a little bit of tightening in a few places (I'm not a fan of the epistolary style, and tend to see it as an easy gimmick for plot points, so I could have used with less of that), but my quibbles are minor. The world-building is quite intricate, the characters are both well-developed and dynamic, and the plot makes it hard to put down. I liked it enough that after finishing I immediately went back to reread "Crown Duel," which is much more interesting with the picture of Vidanric's character developed in this book (which is in some loose sense a prequel).

It's definitely enjoyable for adults as well as teens. I'd particularly recommend it for older fans of Tamora Pierce's Tortall books, and fans of Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword, as it has commonalities with both.
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on March 24, 2017
I so much enjoyed meeting the young Vidanric, well before the events of Crown Duel. I now feel the need to reread Crown- and Court Duel to see him with the weight of his backstory. Loved the book!
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on May 7, 2015
I really enjoyed getting to know the main character [whose name escapes me at the moment] better. " Crown Duel" is a favourite of mine which I have read many times and "Stranger to Command" fills in the background nicely as well as been a good read in itself and adding more pieces/background to the "Indra" series. Though to tell the truth I am having trouble to getting the time lines of the various linking series worked out. Oh well, just have to find more of Sherwood Smiths's books to read. But don't be put off by my confusion, "S to C" as well as been a good read does a very good job of developing characters, following the youngsters as they grow in understanding of themselves and the world around them is a pleasure.
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on June 5, 2017
I LOVE Sherwood! The first book I read of hers was Crown Duel and then of course Court Duel. That was YEARS ago. I was so pleased to find another book by her in this world she has created. It's amusing, well written, thoughtful and honestly I reread this series (now including a stranger to command) every two years or so for the last 10 years. LOVE HER, love it!
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on March 7, 2014
This school story has it all:
Learning a new culture as well as dealing with school bullies and finding your place
An intelligent and hardworking main character
Actual insight into leading others
Not a ton of romance (yay) but still some good relational and emotional content (yay again)
A main character you want to see succeed, but who also suffers setbacks (it can't ALL go his way or it gets boring, right?)
Magic, but just a bit, so it doesn't prevent the characters having to do the work themselves
Horses and war games and knife-throwing classes - this is a fun school, no?
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on August 15, 2017
Great writer, I usually don't like fantasy, I read crown duel and it was great so gave this one a try. This is a good clean book.
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Having read Crown Duel I was eager to read more about the Marquis of Shevraeth. There's some good stuff here but I'd have to say that this book has more of a narrative than a plot. The people are well drawn. The setting is well fleshed out, but there's little if any tension, simply description after description of what Shevraeth is doing and sometimes others.

Shevraeth as he becomes known is an appealing character but he really doesn't do anything other than be conscientious and capable. There's no plot in the typical sense, just a series of scenes in which Shevraeth keeps applying himself to the situation and gets through. He follows other's direction and initiates not much of anything. He attends the command academy in Marloven Hess and does well. He really doesn't excel in anything but knife throwing. He isn't the best at anything else. He doesn't initiate any action. He does nothing to try to hold the girl he loves. He doesn't win contests. He just plugs along. When he comes home, he follows his parent's direction. He does it well, but again doesn't do anything other than go along and do a good job. Definitely not a page turner.
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