An aspiring knight stands against the injustice at work in their own kingdom even as war with a vengeful witch looms on the horizon.
Twelve-year-old Callie longs to train in the royal capital of Helston, but the rigid laws of the realm forbid it. Only boys may pursue knighthood, and only girls may learn magic, but Callie isn’t either. When the lord chancellor demands that Callie’s father, the former king’s champion, return to Helston to train the crown prince for an upcoming tournament and the rising threat of war, Callie seizes the chance to go with him, determined to prove their worth. With the help of two unexpected new friends—the lord chancellor’s daughter and the crown prince—Callie rallies the courage to fight for change. Passing descriptions of background characters indicate diversity in the wider world; the central characters are White. Callie confronts transphobia and internalized shame. When well-meaning but flawed adults try to press for insubstantial change and unfair compromises, Callie and their friends refuse to give up or stop questioning the discrimination within their society. Gentle and affirming romance blossoms gradually throughout the story. A frank and vivid acknowledgement of menstruation stands out as an important moment of inclusion within the coming-of-age narrative. The resolution balances hope with the lingering suspense of lurking danger awaiting Callie in future adventures.
Fierce, heartfelt, and determined.(Fantasy. 8-12)