Currently Reading: Daughter of the Flames
As I went to work knotting the ends of the rough bandage, he spoke to me for the first time. “I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such a rescue, but you have my thanks.”
The distinctive flattened vowels of the Sedorne accent jolted me. My fingers stilled for a second. When I forced them back into action, they were shaking. Was I insane? This man was Sedorne, and here I was patching him up as if he were a friend or...a Rua. What would Deo say?
Author: Zoe Marriott
Synopsis: When the Sedorne rulers destroy the Rua royal family, child-princess Zahira is taken to the temple and adopted by the head of the priests and priestesses. Raised as a warrior priestess, Zahira discovers her identity when her second home and family are overthrown and destroyed. Taking charge of the remnant of her people, she finds an ally in a young Sedorne lord and challenges the reigning tyrant for her rightful throne.
Notes: After discovering by way of Ms. Marriott’s blog that she writes high fantasy for girls, I had to look up some of her work. As it turns out, Marriott writes well, and the tale satisfies.
First-person perspective and high fantasy make for an unusual mix, but it worked. The voice holds to its other-time, other-place feel, avoiding the rookie mistakes of slipping into modern thought processes.
Zahira is a tough-girl protagonist, but her fighting spirit doesn’t suppress her femininity. I appreciated that, and wound up enjoying her as a character. It’s pretty clear right away where her relationship with the Sedorne lord will go, but Marriott put it through a couple of twists in the process. Zahira’s friendship with Deo and Mira was also interesting and well done, and I particularly liked the way the Rashna thread wove.
Having a character named Deo was a little challenging—it kept making me think of deodorant and old Bon Marche commercials—but an effort to pronounce it as Latin (e.g., Gloria in excelsis Deo) helped. My guess would be that Ms. Marriott chose it for the Latin meaning ("God"), which worked well considering Deo's career as a namoa (one of the warrior priests, a sort of non-celibate monastic position).
The religion, composed of a goddess (referred to simply as God) and a consecrated religious temple staff that had both martial and healing aspects, provided a quiet and strongly visual setting. Zahira connects with the goddess closely and at one point directly, and though she never has much of a crisis of faith, her relationship with the goddess forms a consistent thread throughout the book.
The king had a unique story, both interesting and revolting. I expected the move Zahira made against him, but the way it finally ended came totally as a surprise.
It's impossible not to like the young Sedorne lord, as well as the way he and Zahira care for each other. Both of them have physical imperfections, and both of them manage admirably to look beyond that.
The ending gave redemption, which always makes me happy, and made me feel as if the book was worth my time.
Recommendation: Read it when you want to disappear into another world.