Murder, mayhem, magic, romance—and horses, lots of horses!
Sixteen-year-old Princess Dennaleia departs for the kingdom of Mynaria, home of her betrothed, the blond, blue-eyed Thandilimon. Neither royal realizes that Denna’s secret, stigmatized ability to control various elements will soon spiral out of control, as do her feelings when she meets Mare, her bold, gray-eyed future sister-in-law. The plot unfolds slowly as the green-eyed, white-skinned Denna, with her scholarly ways, is at first unsure what to make of Mare, most comfortable in the simple stable clothes that cause her to be mistaken for a boy. Only two characters seem to be of color (one described as dark-skinned and one who hides shyly behind her glossy black hair). Homophobia is a nonissue, as heterosexuality is refreshingly not assumed to be the default, yet sexism is very much present. Denna is stymied by rigid gender roles in her efforts to help investigate two royal murders blamed on reviled, magic-using rebels. Risky undercover excursions with Mare and cozy evenings à deux heighten the tension between the young women. The pace of the final chapters builds to a galloping crescendo as Denna must decide whether and how to be true both to her magical nature and her powerful feelings for Mare. The political machinations are somewhat repetitive and less compelling than the romance, but touches of humor lighten the journey.
A romantic fantasy that will appeal to those who appreciate character-driven novels. (Fantasy. 14 & up)