I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
The trilogy charts the development of two young girls – Catwin a servant and Miriel noble – from adolescence into their late teens. The backdrop is the Kingdom of Heddred where a sickly boy-king, Garad, is surrounded by advisors who want to control the King and the Kindgom. One of the advisors is the Duke of Voltur, war hero and Miriel’s uncle. Using his niece and Catwin as pawns, the Duke places Miriel in the light to charm and engage the young king. Catwin is to stay in the shadows as Miriel’s guard, the Duke’s spy, and if the Duke commands it, his assassin.
All in all a riveting setup for intrigue, danger and adventure. Told from Catwin’s perspective the trilogy carefully develops the relationship between Catwin and Miriel who move from distrust to friendship as they unite in their fear of the Duke and their determination to forge a destiny where they are more than pawns. A number of excellent plot twists and turns keep the narrative moving although the momentum is often lost due to Catwin’s extensive internal musings. By the middle of each volume I found myself skimming sections looking for the next development in the plot. I also found the sophistication of two fourteen to sixteen year olds a little hard to accept in some instances even with fear being a great motivator. I was also disappointed in the final character resolution of the Duke which really did not track to the rest of the story.
Minor flaws aside, the books are well worth reading. By the third volume, the reader is thoroughly invested in the outcome not only for Catwin and Miriel but for the kingdom of Heddred, its king and its people. In a welcome departure from currently popular Young Adult Fantasy, the main characters achieve their goals through hard work and ingenuity rather than magical powers.