Rich characterization, exquisite worldbuilding and rock-solid storytelling make this a fantasy of unusual intelligence and depth.
Brilliant and wealthy Lady Kestrel seems destined for either an illustrious military career or a magnificent marriage, but all she cares about is her music—a passion her Valorian culture disdains, almost as much as they despise the Herrani they have enslaved. After Kestrel pays an outrageous sum for the slave Arin, society has even more to gossip about, particularly when Kestrel betrays her growing attachment to him. But Arin harbors his own deadly secrets, and the price might cost Kestrel everything she holds dear. Precise details and elegant prose make this world fresh and vivid. The intricate and suspenseful plot, filled with politics, intrigue and even graphic violence, features neither heroes nor villains; every character displays a complex mixture of talents, flaws and motives. Kestrel is an especially compelling protagonist, both determined and hesitant, honest and manipulative, ferociously observant and painfully naïve. Her bond with Arin develops slowly and naturally from congruent personalities. As much as it informs their choices, neither can (nor wishes to) elevate an impossible romance over loyalty to friends, family or nation. This integrity keeps them apart right through the heartbreaking (yet necessary) conclusion—but also kindles a tiny spark of hope for the next volume in the trilogy.
Breathtaking, tragic and true. (Fantasy. 12-18)