In this medieval-fantasy debut, an abused teenager finds refuge in a kingdom that holds secrets about her own destiny.
Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth DePerry lives in a convent run by Father Stroff, and it’s a hellish place for girls of all ages. She was placed there after her father failed to return after attempting to rescue his wife from kidnappers. Despite her misery, she loves the outdoors and her horse, Odin. One evening, Mother Maggie enters Elizabeth’s room to hear her confession of sins, and ends up abusing the teen verbally and physically. After retaliating with violence, Elizabeth escapes the convent with 11-year-old Alonna. The girls ride Odin northward and soon encounter a filthy band of human traffickers. Eventually, though, the Frost King of the North’s soldiers, led by Capt. Conry, rescue them and escort them to their kingdom. There, Elizabeth and Alonna meet the infirm King Joseph and his queen, Lady Victoria. Back at the convent, meanwhile, Father Stroff is controlled by a shadowy overlord with horrific intentions. His brother, Joshua, hunts for the convent escapees, even as the General in the South prepares for war against the North. The Frost King places his hope in Elizabeth because a witch, Ina, says that she possesses great power. He sends her on a mission to meet a dragon, after giving her special dragon-scale armor for protection. In this launch of a new fantasy series, debut author Reyes pulls readers into dark territory early, with Mother Maggie calling his protagonist a “whore” and worse. Although Elizabeth is a strong female character, the medieval setting, in which her life only gets worse until men change her fate, gives the narrative the quality of an old fairy tale. The Frost King exposes Elizabeth to a life of royalty, but when she receives magical training from Ina, the tale truly becomes her own. Frequently, Reyes provides marvelous moments of wisdom, as in the line, “Anyone doing what they love to do, can feel free anywhere they are in life.” However, the story might have benefited from smoother transitions between scenes and stronger copy editing (“She saw his water was green and filthy becoming angry her horse would be treated so”).
A dark, sometimes-insightful tale that mixes time-tested fantasy elements.