Penguin Young Readers Group
YA Fantasy, 416 pages
Acquired and read: Through Around the World ARC Tours - sorry for the late review! I read it in about two hours
Wilde Island is in an uproar after the recent death of its king. The uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans is fraying, and a bloodthirsty witch hunter with a hidden agenda whips villages into frenzies with wild accusations. Tess, a blacksmith’s daughter from a tiny hamlet near the mysterious Dragonswood, finds herself caught in the crosshairs of fate when she is accused of witchery and has to flee for her life along with her two best friends.
Not even Tess’s power to see the future can help the girls as they set off on their desperate journey, but she keeps having visions of a man wielding a sword. And when she finally meets him, Tess has no idea how to handle the magnetic attraction she feels for him, or the elusive call she hears from the heart of the Dragonswood.
In this epic romance, an ancient prophecy comes true in a way neither dragon, fairy, nor human would have predicted.
Okay. If Janet Lee Carey wasn't already ranking on my list of favorite fantasy authors, she's really skyrocketed up there by now.
You probably remember my Teaser Tuesday/brief review of her previous book, Dragon's Keep - which as it turns out, is a prequel/companion to this new adventure. Where Dragon's Keep focused on Rosalind, the beautiful Pendragon princess with a hidden curse beneath her gloves, this story is all about Tess, an abused blacksmith's daughter who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and is accused of witchcraft. After she lets her friends' names slip under torture (and honestly, who can blame her?) all three of them have to flee their little hamlet and run headlong into adventure.
As usual, Ms. Carey creates a unique, believable heroine, under fire from all sides and with a thorny nature to protect herself from the threats she sees around her. I wasn't as fond of her friends - particularly the healer girl, Poppy, who despite her gift came off to me as self-centered, flighty and all too eager to capture male attention. Meg, married at fourteen and constantly concerned about her daughter and husband that she left behind in danger, was a bit more easy to sympathize with.
Of course, runaway witches disguised as lepers isn't enough. There are dragons (yay!) and a handsome, all-too-likable love interest Garth Huntsman - but is he more than just the King's loyal servant. I also loved the twist the author added in with Tess's surprising bloodline and the conflict within Rosalind's descendants.
Also, Lady Adela? Best evil witch hunter slash bad girl ever. I mean, I can't say I ended the story liking her a bit more, but I did understand where she came from - doesn't mean I thought she deserved a happy ending, though.
Warnings: Illegitimacy (for those who it might trouble). Maybe some mild language and thematic violence here or there, but all in all an amazing fantasy read.
Final verdict: Try to get through the first chapter and put it down. You won't be able to resist. Trust me.