This is book three of the series that begins with The Goose Girl (mostly about Isi, who became Queen of Bayern) and continues with Enna Burning (focusing on Enna, Isi’s friend). In this book, the limelight is on 17-year-old Razo, a friend of Isi’s and Enna’s.
Bayern and the country with which it was formerly at war, Tira, have decided to exchange ambassadors. Razo is picked to go along as part of the guard, called The King’s Own. Razo’s selection is a mystery, because he is clumsy and not known as a warrior, but he is thrilled even as he himself continually wonders why he was included. Enna is also picked to go, because her two gifts – being able to pull heat from the air and turn it to fire, and to hear the voice of the wind – will help the guards determine if there are dangers ahead, and if so, to thwart them.
In Ingridan, the capital of Tira, the Bayern group meets a number of interesting characters, including Lady Dasha, a girl of sixteen who is the daughter of Tira’s ambassador to Bayern. They get to know the Tirans and exchange ideas on the best clothing, food, and even weather – the book offers a nice commentary on how learning about other cultures can help build bonds between them, even though, at first, there is only a thin barrier separating friendship and suspicion.
The Bayern also discover that many Tirans are opposed to peace, and would like nothing more than inciting another war. The King’s Own is determined to stop the warmongers, but the conspirators operate in secret, and it is difficult to distinguish friends from enemies. As tension mounts prior to the Tiran Assembly vote on war or peace, the atmosphere becomes more deadly.
But the poisonous atmosphere allows Razo finally to learn why he was chosen for the mission, and also to discover something about Dasha that makes a difference to all competing parties.
Evaluation: Razo is an appealing character – you can’t help but like someone so bumbling, naïve, and good-natured. He is also a growing boy who loves to eat, and my favorite quote in the book is when he finds a girl who works in the kitchen attractive because “she smelled nice, like salted meat….”
There are a couple of romances that weave their way through the story, including a particularly charming one between two older characters.
This is a good light read, and would offer a satisfying ending to the series, although there is a fourth, Forest Born, that features Razo’s sister Rin.
Published by Bloomsbury, 2006