Under the rule of a usurper king, the realm of Skala has suffered famine, plague, and invasion. But now the time for the rightful heir has come, a return to the tradition of warrior queens. And the Lightbearer’s prophecy is to be upheld at last: so long as a daughter of the royal line defends and rules, Skala will never be subjugated.
Now a mystical fire has burned away the male body known as Prince Tobin, revealing Princess Tamír, a girl on the verge of womanhood–and a queen ready to claim her birthright after a life in disguise under the protection of wizards and witches. But will her people, her army–and the friends she was forced to deceive–accept her? Worse, will the crown’s rival heir, friend to Tobin, turn foe to Tamír, igniting civil war in a fierce
battle for Skala?
Oh my goodness, this had to be one of the most satisfying conclusions to a trilogy that I have ever read. It involved me fist pumping, beaming, reading breathlessly, awwing and you know, the whole spectrum of emotions. It was so so good to see Tamir come into her own as a woman, as a soldier and as a queen. It was very easy for me to forget that she was a mere fifteen at the time because the way she was written, seemed to be at least in her twenties. But experiences age a person far more and the incongruousness between Tamir’s voice and her age didn’t upset me at all. I had been afraid that Tamir’s character may develop Mary Sue-ish qualities in the last novel but I was wrong and she continues to display the same enchanting mixture of vulnerability and world-weariness that suits her position. She doesn’t stop growing in this last installment and her inability to move in the predicted lines of past rulers keeps the narrative fresh and intriguing.
I also really really appreciated how Flewelling dealt with Niryn. At first I thought it was somewhat anticlimactic and then I realized that Niryn was an instrument of the conflict but not the conflict itself. And the irony of Niryn’s fate was not lost on me. It is the subtlety that plays in the narrative, enjoining one event to another, one coincidence to another fact that makes the overall story so very readable. All the characters retain their greyness and I liked how Tamir manages to stay good and not become sanctimonious. The novel has a huge cast of characters – even more than the usual novel since it is the third installment in a trilogy but Flewelling manages to keep them all real in that they could really exist. Her characterizations are wonderful.
One of my favourite parts of the novel was how the romance between Ki and Tamir is approached. I loved how it wasn’t an instant attraction and culmination of that attraction. Flewelling spends time in developing and portraying the necessary confusion that arises when your best friend becomes a girl and you find yourself seeing him in ways that you don’t necessarily want to.
I would recommend this trilogy to anyone who likes high fantasy. I think you could easily term this one of the better young adult high fantasy trilogies (though it is not exactly marketed in that way, it can be seen as part of the YA genre since its protagonists are young adults, I think). The trilogy is more complex and more mature than what is normal to the genre but I think this is a good thing rather than bad. Read this especially if you like strong heroines with a dash of vulnerability and wonderful world building. Strongly recommended.