This fantasy debut sees a lady-in-training drawn into battle against an evil force that’s destroying kingdoms far and wide.
While still a child, Adelheide, or “Adlai,” of House DuReiyne left her own family for the safety of House Dombrey. King WenLaon decided to have her raised alongside his son, Willan, while he fought the Shadow spreading through other nations. Now Adlai is a mischievous 16-year-old, and she adores Lord Willan, eight years her senior. One day, while practicing their tracking skills, the pair travels on horseback further than they intended. Cutting through the dark woods toward home, they encounter two winged beasts; a ferocious battle chases away Adlai's horse, and she’s gravely injured. Miraculously, though, she’s soon healthy enough to be reprimanded by headmistress Ardath, an abusive woman capable of boundless cruelties. Later, a cadre of tutors, including the affable Dr. Hindley, arrives to help mold Adlai into a lady fit for court. A disfigured stranger, whom Willan orders Adlai to avoid, then visits the Manor. When the stranger returns Adlai’s missing horse, however, her life turns bizarre. She finds that the answers to lingering questions about her origin are tangled up in both her dreams and her waking world, even as the love that’s carried her through a difficult youth proves unsustainable. Clark’s richly textured fantasy debut casts familiar creatures such as elves, dwarfs, and griffins in elaborate new roles that should surprise longtime readers of the genre. She vividly portrays Adlai’s teenage mindset in lines such as, she “felt an uncanny certainty that every peevish emotion she ever held was worn openly upon her sleeve.” Elsewhere, Adlai receives a mission that adds a religious tenor to the narrative; she’s told by a higher power that “the weaker you are...the more My own strength can freely flow through you.” Occasionally, the descriptions are florid, but when Clark serves up a dreamlike atmosphere (particularly in a scene featuring the Muses), her prose shines. This volume brings the story a measure of closure before speeding Adlai toward further adventures.
A dense, character-driven weave of fantasy, mythology, and romance.