A changeling among elves must solve a mystery and discover her past in this debut fantasy from Haskell.
Nuriel Lhethannien, or “Rie,” is an outsider. As a human in a dimension called the Upper Realm, she’s a second-class citizen to the ruling High Elves and she’s had to work hard to achieve the post of court messenger. Her foster parents, and a small swarm of pixies who accompany her on deliveries, are her only sources of affection. Her life changes abruptly when two blood sidhe from the Shadow Realm (beings who survive on human blood) assault her while she’s delivering a message to a powerful elf. Rie defeats her attackers with the help of her pixie pals and her foster father’s martial arts training, but then she faces another problem: any contact with Shadow Realm residents is punishable by execution in the Upper Realm. Rie must journey to the Shadow Realm in the hope of finding the assassins’ employers and somehow clearing her name. She finds a guide to the capital city in Braegan, a handsome blood sidhe with questionable intentions, and also meets Daenor, the illegitimate son of King Aradae and a deadly warrior. Daenor and Rie struggle with their growing, mutual attraction as her investigation draws her into a conflict between the realms. Her emerging magical abilities also force her to realize that she may not be as human as she thought. Many of the characters and tropes in this novel will be familiar to fantasy fans. However, Haskell also includes some unexpected touches, such as an inversion of usual dark-and-light imagery: Rie was taught that the Shadow Realm, with its vampiric residents and long nights, is evil incarnate, but she eventually comes to realize that it might be more functional and egalitarian than her own. Characterization is slight—Rie’s pluckiness, for example, is standard issue for the genre—and this results in wooden dialogue at times. But the plot is full of romantic and court intrigue, which results in a fun, light read overall.
A flawed but often enjoyable adventure.